8:00 am EST, June 6, 2016

J.K. Rowling slams down haters who think Hermione can’t be black

By Selina Wilken | Edited by Karen Rought

J.K. Rowling knew that “idiots were going to idiot” about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child‘s black Hermione, but she still has some choice words for the haters.

When the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cast photos came out, it was all wonderful and glorious — except, you know, for the ridiculous racism.

Although Noma Dumezweni had already been announced as our new Hermione Granger back in December, clearly some ‘fans’ didn’t get the message, and reacted in horribly close-minded ways when they saw the family portrait of Hermione, Ron, and their daughter Rose.

Ron Hermione Rose

And let’s be clear: It’s hard to pretend like the naysayers’ main objections — that any Hermione ‘should look exactly like Emma Watson’ or that Hermione can’t be black because ‘she wasn’t black in the books’ — are in any way valid arguments for why Noma Dumezweni shouldn’t have gotten the part just because of her skin color.

After all, when casting the golden trio back at the turn of the century, Christopher Columbus and the casting team didn’t pick actors who looked exactly like their characters were described in the books. Daniel Radcliffe’s eyes were the wrong color, Emma Watson’s hair wasn’t bushy, and Rupert Grint wasn’t tall and gangly — yet amazingly, none of those outwardly traits impeded their performances. It’s almost like the casting directors were more concerned with finding actors who could bring Harry, Ron and Hermione to life than finding carbon copies of fictional characters.

It’s baffling, quite frankly, to see people so judgmental of a person’s skin color in 2016. And, clearly, J.K. Rowling agrees.

In a lengthy interview with The Observer (via The Guardian), she first slammed down the argument that everyone’s been trying to use as proof of Hermione’s canon ethnicity: The passage in Prisoner of Azkaban which stated, “Hermione’s white face was sticking out from behind a tree.”

“I had a bunch of racists telling me that because Hermione ‘turned white’ — that is, lost color from her face after a shock — that she must be a white woman, which I have a great deal of difficulty with,” said Rowling. “But I decided not to get too agitated about it and simply state quite firmly that Hermione can be a black woman with my absolute blessing and enthusiasm.”

Related: Why a black Hermione Granger in Cursed Child is okay (and important)

Rowling went on to dismiss the skin color-specific complaints, simply stating, “Noma was chosen because she was the best actress for the job.”

This should be enough to silence the haters who claim that Dumezweni’s casting was somehow ‘forced diversity’ — although that in itself is a troubling concept, as though media (and specifically stage adaptations of books) should be white by default, and that any deviation from white normativity would be somehow ‘forced.’

But, of course, as they say, haters gonna hate. Or, as Rowling says, “With my experience of social media, I thought that idiots were going to idiot. But what can you say? That’s the way the world is.” And, unfortunately, she’s right.

Cursed Child Romione

Cursed Child director John Tiffany also spoke about the topic, saying, “What shocked me was the way people couldn’t visualise a non-white person as the hero of a story. It’s therefore brilliant that this has happened.”

Of course, as most people know, British media — and the theater community in particular — has a much better track record of race-blind casting than American media. No one thinks twice about casting non-white actors in Shakespeare plays, for example.

Not that there isn’t still a clear and troubling bias in favor of white actors in the U.K., but casting a black Hermione for a stage production of Harry Potter really should not be as big of an issue as some people regard it to be.

And with J.K. Rowling — the one who dreamed up Hermione in the first place — giving Noma Dumezweni her “absolute blessing and enthusiasm,” we’d say that’s all the proof we need that she’s going to be amazing.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child previews open in London next week, but it seems J.K. Rowling has already experienced it!

The play’s World Premiere is on July 30, 2016. Visit the Cursed Child website for ticket information.

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