This probably sounds like I’m reaching, but reach with me.
The Harry Potter franchise has enough fans to gross over twenty-four billion dollars worth of revenue. I know that millions of kids across the country were waiting for their letter to Hogwarts and that many of those kids grew into adults dedicatedly waiting in line or online for the final books of the series. Harry Potter told a whole generation that anything is possible, that hard work pays off and friendships are valuable and last lifetimes. It was a story about the underdog, about privilege, about choosing the person you become. Harry Potter taught a generation that magic was real.
Harry Potter’s popularity paved the way for the Young Adult literature craze. Thanks to Harry Potter, Twilight took off, Hunger Games took off and thanks to those books, Vampire Diaries and Divergent are thriving on the shelves and on screen. It brought tremendous visibility to Speculative Fiction and YA Fantasy is now a genre that both children and adults are voraciously consuming. JK Rowling and her characters are household names.
Now imagine if Harry, Ron or Hermione was a child of color (and nothing particularly significant about the story changes). Then brown kids and non-brown kids would have spent their childhoods understanding that you don’t need blue eyes and blonde hair to save the day. They would’ve learned that it’s okay to form friendships with people who don’t look exactly like you.
It may have inspired a Black or Latino main character in Twilight. It may have meant the Black kids in Hunger Games could’ve lived. It might even mean that Divergent’s main character Beatrice could’ve been dark skinned. If JK Rowling had dared to write the other more boldly than just Dean Thomas or Padma and Parvati Patil, her readers could’ve grown up and fought the adults twitter slamming Hunger Games for making Rue Black. This generation could’ve avoided the xenophobia running rampant behind the Michael Brown case.
Children are a blank slate. The more we expose them, the more diverse they become. We could expose them with textbooks, conferences and lectures, or we could write more books with Dominican dragon riders, gender non-conforming aliens and asexual sword wielding princesses.
Let’s be honest about which one sounds more awesome.
Currently, there are colleges teaching Harry Potter, which is amazing. Fantasy fiction holds one of the many keys to shutting down racism.
Read more from Cairo Amani at blackgirlnerds.com