For a while now, artists have been reimagining famous characters if they were another race. There’s race-bent Cinderella, Snow White, and even human-bent Lion King, but the best one to me is race-bent Hermione Granger.
I’ve seen a couple of articles about it, and there are plenty of pictures on the web if you Google them. There are even race-bent Harry Potters and Ron Weasleys and other Harry Potter characters, but Hermione impacts me the most.
We have a problem in this society where we assume white is default. It’s been shown that Hermione’s race has never been explicitly mentioned, which unfortunately meant that we all assumed her to be white, something that was then reinforced in the movie casting. Now, I say this is a societal issue and not the movie-caster’s problem, or even J.K. Rowling’s specific problem because I’ve always assumed Hermione to be white. Even with my upbringing, with my parents coloring in the white people in my illustrated Bible, and with all the reinforcement in my childhood that black is beautiful (my father named one of our teddy bears the Honorable Louis Bearakhan who would remind us that the “Black bear is the original bear on the planet Earth.”) I still assumed Hermione was white. And while I connected with her out of all the characters in the Harry Potter series, that was always the one thing that separated me from her.
This really is a problem and it doesn’t only happen in Harry Potter. I remember once I submitted a part of a story for workshop, and was told that it wasn’t clear that my character was black until there was a mention that she had braids. The entire time, people thought she was white because I hadn’t explicitly said “SHE IS BLACK. HER SKIN IS BROWN LIKE THE CHOCOLATE RIVER OF BROWN-NESS” or whatever. Even when that does happen, people like to assume that characters are white (see: racists’ problem with Rue being black in the Hunger Games movie). It becomes a problem because it allows for the white-washing of characters, or whole peoples in history, like for example, the Ancient Egyptians. While it didn’t really work (financially) for them this time, in the latest White Egyptian movie Exodus basically just parroted what Hollywood and history had been doing to Egypt forever. And even if you, like me, grew up in a family that explicitly worked to combat this, you are still susceptible to these ideals that white is the default.
Growing up, rather than imagining myself as Hermione, I always imagined myself as their black friend who was just as smart as Hermione but was also cool like Harry and Ron. Never once did I think that she could be me. Her skin color (or assumed skin color) was always a barrier. I knew that that still meant something, no matter how comfortable I was in my own skin. Even in a world where Hermione is marginalized for being Muggle-born, I still knew at a young age that she wouldn’t be marginalized for her race. And let’s face it, as much as Harry Potter deals with issues of bigotry and marginalization, there is not a high number of people of color in the story, and all of them are side characters.
Anyway, seeing race-bent Hermione gives me a lot of feels because I feel like the character who I’ve most closely identified with throughout my childhood actually looks like me, and this is a big deal. What’s even better is that I was looking at an article earlier about this, and my baby sister saw it and asked if Hermione was me. I know this is going to sound extremely nerdy—which, duh, this is what this blog is for—but to say that I was happy when she said that was an understatement. This was actually the best thing ever, and it made my day.