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Racism & Harry Potter

So apparently, it's International Blog Against Racism Week 2. I've had a racist rant I've been meaning to post anyway. So here goes.

Let's face it: most of the racism that the majority takes notice of is the racism that is brought to their attention. I'm probably guilty of overlooking an awful lot of it myself, being a WASA (white anglo-saxon atheist). But I noticed something a few weeks ago that it seemed like a whole lot of people didn't. For those of you who haven't seen Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, this won't ruin anything.

J.K. Rowling has made a big deal about racism in the latest book. It's veiled behind Muggles (non-wizarding people) and full-blooded magical people, but it's an obvious metaphor and her own little political statement. But unfortunately, the latest movie kind of defeats the purpose of this viewpoint.

First off, there are mostly white people in the movie. There's Cho, an Asian, and there's Kingsley, who you immediately know must be African based on the fact that he's wearing stereotypical African clothing. Other than a couple others, there isn't really a whole lot of diversity. My problem is that they wrote Kingsley not as a stereotypical black guy, but as a stereotypical black guy in a movie. He hangs around with the heroes, doesn't say much of anything, and then out of the blue he has his moment to shine: "*dramatic pause* You may not like him, Minister, but you can't deny: Dumbledore's got style." Hahahahahaha!!! Almost the whole theater laughed at this one; I didn't. But if a white guy had said it, I still wouldn't have laughed, but just because I don't laugh at that kind of thing ("Hold on, Dorothy, because Kansas is going bye-bye"). If it had been funny to me, I wonder if I would've laughed, or if I would've laughed and then felt bad for laughing?

Either way, I'm surprised there isn't an uproar about this. Maybe there are just bigger fish to fry these days, but a simple search for ["harry potter and the order of the phoenix" racism] on Google turns up a bunch of pages about the OOP game, and then links to articles about racism in Resident Evil 5 (which is a rant for another time). This outraged me. Am I alone in regarding this particular situation as racist?


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 9th, 2007 12:23 am (UTC)
There were other non-white characters in OotP, such as the Patil twins and Dean Thomas. It's true that the major part of the cast is white, but it does take place in the UK, after all.

I don't really understand your explanation regarding how Kingsley's character is portrayed in a racist manner.

Aug. 9th, 2007 01:01 am (UTC)
Right. There were a couple of others..

You don't find that quotation rather stereotypical of blacks?
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:02 am (UTC)
No, I really don't see it.
Aug. 9th, 2007 01:05 am (UTC)

He also was given a minimal number of lines in the movie. I can't remember if he spoke at all other than that, but Megan said she remembered one other line.
Aug. 9th, 2007 09:56 pm (UTC)
It's true that the major part of the cast is white, but it does take place in the UK, after all.

The UK is not really a Bastion of Whiteness. There's a large portion of PoC there.
Aug. 9th, 2007 09:36 pm (UTC)
I felt this way too--glad you pointed that out--I forgot about it. It's the way whites use blacks as the arbiters of coolness, and that coolness is figured as an exoticism.

I'm going to be posting on racism in HP, hopefully sometime this week for IBARW.
Aug. 9th, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC)
I was beginning to think I was the only one.
Aug. 9th, 2007 09:57 pm (UTC)
I've seen several discussions of racism in the HP series, though I haven't pursued them much. If I find any in the future, I'll see about linking them for you.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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