I was a teenager from Long Island taking the Long Island Railroad into Manhattan. From there I took the A C or E subway train to Greenwich Village in order to arrive to my program at Hebrew Union College.
There was often a wait at Pennsylvannia Station on the way home on the Babylon line of the LIRR. If you have ever been to Penn Station, there are a lot of shops. By the LIRR tracks there was a book store. My best friend told me about the Harry Potter book so I thought I would give it a try. I was sucked in immediately.
I had no idea how much bigotry the novel series and the author had. Once I knew, I stopped immediately but I had to grieve because I could relate to Harry being the scape goat. After my grieving process was over, I got angry.
Bigotry in the Series
Slavery and Racism
One thing I didn’t give a second thought was slavery in the series. Once it was pointed out and I did more research, I was sick. The house elves were the wizards slaves. They were described as the perfect slaves.Their clothes were made from pillow cases and rags. They didn’t get decent clothes. Ironically, if they were to receive clothes, they would be free. It was written into the story that if they were to be paid, it would be offensive.
Most of them even looked happy to be enslaved. This is a direct parallel to the “Mammy” image that the slave owners pre Civil War portrayed their slaves inside the homes. It was a political symbol. During slavery, the mammy caricature was supposed to be proof that blacks were contented, and even happy as slaves. The wide grin, hearty laughter and loyal servitude were offered as evidence that slavery was humane. This was all propaganda. The mammy was desexualized, she belonged to the family. She was a faithful worker. She had no black friends and the white family was her entire world. Much like the house elves.
Tokenization of Minorities
There is tokenization of the Asian character, Cho Chang. She was Harry’s first crush. She was a token character in the series. These are characters of minorities mixed in to make something appear more diverse. Tokenization is not diversity. They display the stereotypes of the race or ethnicity.
Cho has very little character development. She does not contribute anything substantial. She is there for a quota only. The name is very stereotypical, she does not say much, etc. This is inherently racist.
Instead of creating token characters, characters of minority groups should be complex, non stereotypical characters separate from a white protagonist. Rowling did not do any research before just sticking an Asian character in her book just because.
The Patil twins were also stereotyped in the Goblet of fire. This was a real chance at real representation, and Rowling failed yet again. Just like Cho, the characters weren’t developed at all to offer real representation. These characters were more minority tokens to appear diverse. Pavarti was sorted into Gryffindor. Parma was sorted into Ravenclaw. Harry and Ron took the sisters to the Yule Ball. Seamus Finnigan and Dean Thomas called them the “prettiest girls in our year.” This might be because they are different than other girls. This is objectifying them.
According to an Indian columnist, they said the names were actually Indian. They weren’t a lazy attempt at Anglicized representation. Even with Pottersville, the Harry Potter author had the opportunity to deepen the these two characters and chose not to. One of the twins, Padma, vanished from the narrative. Parvati was fascinated with Divination. It was expressed as superstitious and mysterious nonsense.
The costumes at the Yule Ball in the books where Pavarti “looked very pretty indeed, in robes of shocking pink, with her long dark plait braided with gold, and gold bracelets simmering at her wrist” Padma “was lookin just as pretty as Parvati in robes of bright turquoise.”
The movies undid this. The twin’s costumes were ranted about on the internet because “no self respecting Indian would wear those garish orange and pink lhengas to the biggest event of the year.”
The Goblins that guard Gringotts, the central Wizard bank were meant to symbolize Jews. They were created similarly to how Jews were caricatured throughout history. They had hook noses and were greedy. This is what antisemitic propaganda has been throughout history.
Even on the floor of the Gringotts building, there is a Magen David (Star of David). If someone would deny that this is antisemitic, they would be lying.
Pure Blood Comes from Nazi Ideology
The Harry Potter series uses the same “logic” Nazis used when referring people as pureblood, half blood and mud blood. These terms were only used by the perceived evil characters.
Rowling claimed she invented the idea where some wizards were not considered pure.
According to Susannah Alexander, an education officer at the Jewish Museum in London, “A single Jewish grandparent ‘polluted’ the blood, according to their propaganda.”
“They graded people according to their genetics in a totally revolving and warped way. I personally think that if we avoid these issues and burst them under the carpet, we are giving the green light to people who might try and expose young people in the alternative point of view, which doesn’t bear thinking about.”
“We are in danger of saying these issues are too big, too frightening, and not deal with them altogether.”
Miss Alexander has taught children about the Holocaust. She had picked up on the striking similarities between Nazi beliefs and those held by evil characters in the Harry Potter books. She read all of them.
“The second book in particular deals very much with this idea of pure blood and half blood. It never seemed to me that some of the expressions and the language used came entirely from an author’s imagination.”
“In one particular instance, Hermoine is being picked on for having muggle parents. They call her ‘mud blood’, dirty blood. That always seemed to me to have a basis in language used by the Nazis.”
Rowling said she made this ‘chilling’ discovery but all the terms that was used was no original thought. Her “discovery” is performative at best.
Bigotry by JK Rowling Outside Harry Potter
This is the type of bigotry she is infamous for. In an essay on her website talking about how “sex is real.” This is the phrase a lot of Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERF) use.
Her transphobia became evident in her tweets on June 6, 2020. She retweeted an op-ed a piece that discussed “people who menstruate.” She took issue with the fact they didnt use the word “women.”
She said.”People who menstruate. I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben? Wimpund? Woomud?”
This tweet caused a lot of backlash, rightfully so. She had an even worse response. “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth.”
“I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.”
She then retweeted an op ed titled “Anonymous letter from a Terrified Lesbian. ‘I never felt as shouted down, ignored, and as targeted as a lesbian *within* our supposed GLBT community as I have the past couple of years.'”
On June 10, 2020 she published a long post on her website and sent out a tweet that said “TERF Wars.”
“This isn’t an easy piece to write, for reasons that will shortly become clear, but I know it’s time to explain myself on an issue surrounded by toxicity. I write this without any desire to add to that toxicity. For people who didn’t know, last December I tweeted my support for Maya Foster, a tax specialist who’d lost her job for what were deemed ‘transphobic’ tweets. She took her case to an employment tribunal, asking the judge to rule on whether a philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected by law. Judge Tayler ruled that it wasn’t.”
She explained that she became interested in trans issues while researching a character she was writing. Rowling also described “five reasons for being worried about the new trans activism.”
New Book That “Wasn’t Inspired by the black-lash”
After the backlash of the transphobic comments, she wrote a crime novel called “The Ink Black Heart.” She said it “genuinely wasn’t” by the clapback she received from the trans community.
It is the latest volume to the crime series caked “Cormoran Strike.” It is a crime thriller series that she wrote under a pseudonym Robert Galbraith.
This book is about a woman who is killed aafter being accused of transphobia.
She claims the parallels are just coincidences.
“I’d written the book before certain things happened to me online. I said to my husband, ‘I think everyone’s going to see this as a response to what happened to me,’ but it genuinely wasn’t.
No one is tricked by this. The timing is just too perfect.