J.K. Rowling has always stated that she never said what Hermione Granger’s race was in her books. Her canon description of Hermione was that she had brown eyes and frizzy hair, and that white skin was not specified.
But what would have happened if Ms. Rowling had stated in her books that Hermione was a little black girl who grew up to be a black woman? What would have happened if she adamantly stated that they could not whitewash this character and demanded that only a black actress could be the true Hermione?
I think about this a lot because Hermione Granger is one of my favorite literary characters of all time. I always admired her intelligence, her bravery, and her kindness. She was soft and feminine yet strong and tenacious, a multifaceted character who I truly believe was the real hero in the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley would not have survived past their first year if it wasn’t for this brilliant girl.
As a black girl who enjoys nerdy things, who has been called an “Oreo” in my life more times than I care to say, who just wanted to have a major character who looked like me, black Hermione would have saved me. It would have been such a great positive representation for young black girls and boys that we are intelligent, we can shamelessly love nerdy things, we can be brave and kind and save the world, too.
Black Hermione with her frizzy hair and brown eyes could have looked just like me. I could cosplay as her and no one would question it. People would tell me, “You look just like Hermione Granger,” instead of tertiary or unnamed characters in the Harry Potter universe.
J.K. Rowling made Hermione’s race purposely ambiguous, but I could see the hate and vitriol that spewed once a black Hermione was cast in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a play that was not even written by Ms. Rowling but heavily endorsed by her.
I read the microaggressive racist comments on Twitter and Facebook, comments like “Hermione is not black,” “When I think of her I don’t see a black girl,” “Why do they have to make everything about race?” “I’m tired of this social justice, progressive nonsense,” “Emma Watson is the true Hermione and I’ll never view it otherwise,” “I’m not racist but why mess with the original story?” All I saw in comments like those were how dare someone interpret a racially ambiguous character as anything other than white. For all we know Hermione could be mixed, she does come from the Muggle world. But people got so up in arms over such little information when the plot of the play was first released. Nobody cared that it was a play, a different interpretation of the Harry Potter series, a continuation of the story through the eyes of someone new, something outside of the Harry Potter realm completely. The only thing that people cared about was that Hermione was black.
Since so many people reacted so negatively, I think about if Hermione was always black would people have read the books as much or seen the movies as heavily? Would they suddenly turn away just because the three main characters had a brilliant, outspoken and courageous woman of color also in the forefront? I really do hope not, that would be such a shame. Some people can embrace fictional worlds with dragons, magical spells, Dementors and flying cars but a person of color being a hero is just too much for them to even think about, it’s just implausible.
But for little girls like me, who carried around those giant books everywhere I went when I was nine, who bought the entire set with my own money when I was fifteen, who has seen every movie hundreds of times, visited Harry Potter world, lives and breathes Harry Potter? Black Hermione is the dream, my dream. J.K. Rowling gave us the capacity to dream, to think for ourselves, to be brave. My Hermione will always do the same.