Sometimes the books I’m reading can eerily coincide with issues going on in the real world.
Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets sets up the main overarching pillars for the upcoming books, establishing the rift between pure-blooded and half-blooded wizards and witches. The disparity between the two groups is nearly nonexistent in the first novel, and for the most part, remains an antiquated subject among the younger generation of wizards and witches.
Secrets reflects the current status quo of the magical community coexisting alongside the muggles, aka, the non-magical folks. Its society has adopted acceptance and tolerance toward muggles and muggle-born wizards and witches, but in addition to this world, ignorance is perpetuated when it comes to the children actually discussing racial issues. It’s not to say that Secrets doesn’t address these issues, calling attention to derogatory terms such as ‘mug-blood,’ or leading with the overlooking threat of death to half-blooded wizards and witches. But Secrets displays the problem with having a perfunctory mindset among the younger generation in combating racism, a problem that still exists today.
Noted in Slate’s article, while the younger generation, Millennials, appear more tolerant and in favor of promoting equality across varying ethnic groups, there seems to be a distinct lack of discussion of countering racism, other than to just ignore it and hope the problem will resolve itself over time. This standby approach has egregiously morphed into a real concern. The aggregate efforts of educational institutions in encouraging the equal treatment of others are more preventative and instead don’t address the racial conflicts at hand. They have essentially not been taught how to talk about racism and discrimination in our world, subsequently, inventing a misleading notion that racism doesn’t exist, when it clearly does and isn’t going to be solved simply by waiting for the older generation to die out. The roots of the problem are deeper than that.
If we take a hard look at the children in Harry Potter, most of them will fall in a category believing that racism is an obsolete, misguided ideology, and who can blame them? Most of them were still sporting diapers and still learning to crawl before they heard the name Voldemort, the series’ iconoclastic antagonist. Afterwards they were prohibited from uttering his name by the adults, who would only allow the children to get away with saying ‘you-know-who.’ Sound familiar? In this context, the children are not equipped to combat racism and discrimination because they simply don’t know what a world of racism and discrimination is like; they didn’t live in a world like their parents had to endure, and to some extent, still do. They’re not being taught to deal with the problem; they’re being conditioned to avoid it.
Characters such as the Malfoys exemplify the problem that arises from racism: simply ceasing all conversation about it will not discontinue other people from instigating racial acts and committing horrific tragedies. Racism is indoctrinated, producing a culture invested in oppressing its people, measuring one’s capability on the color of their skin, and ultimately, committing travesties of mass murders. Being unaware and avoiding the problem is not a solution but a form of procrastination with terrible ramifications.
I could offer up to you how the Defense Against the Dark Arts position is a game of musical chairs and that background checks go by the wayside at Hogwarts, that a bullied dead girl haunts the bathroom for shits and giggles, that the Weasley family is the kind of family that I wished I always had (but smaller), but that would be missing the main point.
It’s about time we have a serious conversation about racism and do something about it.
Other Thoughts about Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets:
- Severus Snape:
The movies have plentifully spoiled his dark knight role for me, but I have to say, while keeping this in mind, it has somehow enhanced my reading experience. Snape has become more cryptic to me. Every twisted smile or sneer is so convincingly ruthless that I can’t help but wonder if there’s not a part of him that enjoys harping on Harry and making his life miserable.
I’m supposed to believe that neither Snape or Dumbledore weren’t percipient enough to conclude that the monster was a basilisk? If Dumbledore already suspected Tom Riddle and knew Hagrid wasn’t responsible (the guy was expelled from Hogwarts and made a Gamekeeper—because that’s so much better???) then, why does Dumbledore not overturn the previous Headmaster’s ruling when Dumbledore himself eventually becomes Headmaster of the school, or at the very least, reinstate Hagrid’s magical privileges? Poor Hagrid!