Much as I love the Harry Potter books I do think that Rowling’s efforts to multiculturize them are clunky. While watching the Order of the Phoenix movie the other day, Roxanne and I muttered to each other “Who is that?” as a handsome black man, dressed in African garb and called Kingsley, spoke up at the Order of the Phoenix meeting. When he reappeared in the final book I realized we’d obviously just forgotten about him, probably because he didn’t do enough of significance for us to remember him. This all came to mind when reading Uzodinma Iweala’s insightful piece in today’s Washington Post, “Stop Trying to ‘Save’ Africa.” It seems to me that Rowling is as well-meaning in what she did with Kingsley as those Iweala writes about. Please read it.
And then there is the Native American reference on Page 216 of Book VII. “The mother, Kendra, had jet-black hair pulled into a high bun. Her face had a carved quality about it. Harry thought of photos of Native Americans he’d seen as he studied her dark eyes, high cheekbones, and straight nose, formally composed above a high-necked silk gown.” Since there was no further mention of her or anything Native American what was the point? Debbie Reese asked about this on child_lit and wrote about it on her blog, “Native Imagery in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.” Please read it too.
Finally, Debbie points to a provocative 2005 article by Keith Woods, “Harry Potter And the Imbalance of Race.” Please go read it and then come back and tell me if he’s on target or not.