[dropcap]H[/dropcap]arry Potter was the first full-length novel I’d ever read. As my school’s library only had one very popular copy of The Philosopher’s Stone, upon a friend’s request, I convinced my parents to order me the book from a Scholastic book form, and ever since cracking open the fresh-scented, glossy paperback that one afternoon in second grade, my imagination was captivated.
I fell in love. The plots and settings were rich, the characters so believable I felt as though I knew them personally. I did know them personally. In too many respects, their trials and tribulations felt as if they were my own.
And yes, in my imagination all these characters, unless otherwise written, had white skin. I don’t feel racist admitting this. After all, growing up in a predominantly white environment, it’s only natural for me to envision fictional characters with my own ethnicity. I’ll also admit that, yes, I was rather taken aback to learn that the ever-clever Hermione Granger — a main character I’d grown so close to as a young reader — was recently cast in J.K. Rowling’s stageplay sequel Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as a black woman.
While I’m ultimately satisfied with this decision, inevitably there have been those devoted fans who are not.
Here’s the reality: until now, Hermione has always been stuck in a sort of invisible racial limbo; her ‘whiteness’ has never been confirmed in the series but has become ‘truth’ due to the way we (including Hollywood) mentally express our characters through our defaulted Caucasian imagery.
Yes, Hermione is now officially black, and it’s now implied that she has always been.
That being said, let’s face it, Rowling herself was obviously mired by these defaults as she wrote the series. She never delivered Hermione as a black character — a notion emphasized by her enthusiastic Twitter endorsement stating that she “loves” her character as black and that “white skin was never specified.”
Such a tweet conveying racial open-endedness clearly indicates that Rowling is just as accepting of this new idea as many of us are — otherwise we may have seen a post stating, “Yep, she was black all along!” Hermione is another piece in Rowling’s retroactively-tweaked canon. After the entire series was published, the author revealed that Hogwarts student Anthony Goldstein is Jewish, that Dumbledore is gay, and a variety of other unwritten characteristics to her wizarding world.
Rowling is retrospectively changing the initially straight, white world conveyed in her printed story. These aspects were never explicitly expressed on paper, but Rowling is seizing the day and moulding the canon to fit our shifting cultural ideals of diversity in today’s fiction. And there’s nothing wrong with this. The lack of diversity in the Harry Potter series has been longstanding, and perhaps Rowling feels a tad guilty over her monoracial characters.
To be clear, every reader envisions a slightly different Hermione, and it’s only natural to be surprised at a casting decision that doesn’t match with our personal image of that character.
Though I will say that because a black Hermione has now been approved and endorsed by Rowling herself to be in a play actually written by the author, she is now officially solidified in the Harry Potter canon as being of colour. Yes, Hermione is now officially black, and it’s now implied that she has always been. This may not have originally been the case in Rowling’s world — but now it is.
A fascinating and rare surprise to ever hit a canon. Let’s celebrate the now sealed and stamped black Hermione Granger.
And while too many fans will infiltrate public forums with shallow retorts along the lines of “she’s just not my Hermione,” or “she’s a product of forced diversity,” at least you can just shrug off these absurdities while you pat yourself on the back for perceiving this with such an openness. As the popular saying goes, “haters gonna hate,” right?