A Black woman has been cast to play Hermione Granger in a Harry Potter followup, and some racist fans just don’t know what to do.
It was announced this week that Noma Dumezweni would be taking on the role of Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The play focuses on Harry’s son, Albus Severus Potter, but many readers have worked themselves into a tizzy at the thought of Noma portraying their favorite witch. But why? Hermione’s race isn’t even cannon.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling herself had to point out to even the most hardcore fans that she never explicitly said that Hermione was White. What’s more, she even endorses the casting!
Matthew Lewis, who played Neville Longbottom in the film adaptation brushed off another fan, who demanded to know his thoughts on the casting.
Emma Watson, who played Hermione in the film series, hasn’t spoken out yet herself. She did, however, retweet Matthew’s sentiments. We’ll assume this means that Emma probably doesn’t care either since she’s busy snapping selfies with notable feminist Bell Hooks.
While people that were actually involved in bringing the world of Harry Potter to life are totally unbothered (if not jazzed about the casting), it’s clearly unsettling fragile souls and minds all across the fandom universe.
Hermione being White means so much to some readers that they are literally hunting for any hint that may suggest she wasn’t anything other than a fair-skinned, White girl. The arguments are flimsy at best, and it would be much more honest for them to say they just don’t want to see a non-White actress in the role (of course we know that will never happen).
It’s simply impossible for them to even consider that the intelligent, engaging heroine they imagined while pouring over every book from the series could be anything other than White. It’s a surprise they can even read through the veil of their entitled tears.
Admittedly, I started reading Harry Potter right after the first movie came out, and I gobbled up every book as soon as I could get my hands on them. After seeing a predominantly White cast portray the characters in the film, it was hard to visualize them any differently while I was reading. In Hermione’s case, it was always Emma’s face that I unconsciously associated with the character.
But here’s the thing: Hermione doesn’t have to be White. Representation has always been a big issue for me, and I had totally forgotten this simple fact. Just because it is assumed that she’s White doesn’t mean it’s a fact. What’s wrong with the idea that anyone can be Hermione?
There is literally nothing stating that Hermione couldn’t have been Black. Frizzy hair and brown eyes, sounds like a bunch of brown girls I can spot on any given day. Any one of the young Black actresses in the United Kingdom could have played Hermione in the movie. That’s wonderful!
The Harry Potter series spoke on the issues of child welfare, equality, classism, and criminal justice. But the biggest social issue tackled in Harry Potter was racism (i.e. muggle-born vs. pure-blood lineage). Since Hermione was born of two non-magical parents, she was subject to all kinds of racial slurs and discrimination simply for existing. This is a familiar experience for Black girls and women.
I’m glad this casting is challenging the mental image that so many people had of Hermione. I’m thrilled that this creates a space for Black girls to see themselves at the center of powerful story. I’m overjoyed that this gives new meaning to the phrase Black Girl Magic. I’m delighted that this gives us major presence in the Fantasy fiction landscape, where we barely exist. We’ve needed that! And we’ve needed it in the mainstream.
As a matter of fact, I hope every Hermione they ever cast for this play is Black just so that we can continue to see this. Winding up racist fans and seeing them sputter and short circuit in fits of rage is just a bonus. Maybe this will give them a chance to expand their minds once their brains reset.