Black People Harry Potter won’t save you. But let’s start at the beginning: anyone demanding JK Rowling and other popular writers be more inclusive, more diverse in their works need to step away from the keyboard and chill. I know the layer of obfuscation and anonymity that the Internet allows emboldens keyboard warriors who in turn become intoxicated with virtual muscle when challenging the establishment. Especially when that muscle moves the needle and goes viral like #OscarsSoWhite. But that’s what so addictive and dangerous about social media. Being able to say anything to anyone at anytime feeds a cottage industry of trolls who live for it and will tear down everything just because they can. Like the Joker in Batman, some men just want to see the world burn.
And while social media activism can provide value like shining a light on racial and gender disparities in Hollywood, people in the movie industry will tell you that one of the biggest things you can do to effect change, is to go see movies on opening night. In short: fund the change you want. Besides, all that activism and the publishing industry is still predominately white at every level. And a large percentage of the chatter can best be described as begging for a white savior to, well, you know, save you. Confused? How is demanding a white writer or company be more diverse in their art to make you feel better about purchasing their wares not begging for a white savior to rescue you? Or, at the very least, assuage your guilt? Oh, you trippin off my use of the term ‘white savior’? Does ‘accountable’ work better for you? Regardless, please explain how you can demand that the establishment address your pleas while you offer nothing in return is not like the Tarzan trope? I’ll wait…
Still trippin? The Tarzan thing hurt your feelings? You think I’m hating on your boo JK Rowling? I’m not. JK Rowling is an excellent writer and, from what I’ve read about her, an even better person (she is also hilarious on Twitter). So don’t get it twisted. This is about readers screaming for diversity while ignoring diverse books because they’re not big enough or part of the establishment, i.e., JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins. And I know the argument, which it’s a waste of energy to support and make demands of said writers because they aren’t as big as JK Rowling, so they don’t have the same social and cultural impact. That thinking ensures that those writers won’t ever be as big or have the cultural impact of a JK Rowling. It’s nonsensical circular logic.
Oh wait, the problem is you’re not familiar with any diverse fantasy or science fiction books? I got you! Go to Twitter and search hashtags #WeNeedDiverseBooks or #DiverseBookBloggers. Those hashtags optimize social media activism by doing two things: increasing visibility on the disparity of diverse books in the publishing industry and promoting diverse talent. You’re welcome. And for the record, no one is above criticism, least of all JK. But my biggest beef with her books – next to that troubling going back in time sequence – was why Harry and crew were never able to morph into animals like their parents. His mother and father could turn into a deer/doe, and even Pettigrew could turn into a rat. Which brings to mind another inconsistency: why Pettigrew never showed up on the map? I mean this dude is in the house, in the school, but nada? And yeah it would be cool if Harry had an afro and Hermione afro puffs.
Also, the hashtag #IfHogwartsWasAnHBCU was why the Internet was invented. But for the most part, I’m good with the books. What I’m not good with is people constantly chirping and making demands of big-time authors for more diversity while they look past less established writers who publish diverse books. And there is something else: a weird conflicting dichotomy in the black community where people will enthusiastically support black writers on social media but won’t purchase their work because they consider it substandard. And if the Potter books are the bar which black folks require black authors to explain, why don’t they have the same requirement for white authors? Am I bitter? I hope not. But I do get frustrated at times when I see convos about there not being enough books with the diverse protagonist or black girl heroes. I feel like Horshack from Welcome Back Kotter watching those convos.
I’m sure that this is how a lot of less established writers feel. And for writers who do write diverse books, the equation is simple: if you want diverse books then vote with your dollars. They carry more weight than your tweets. But my writer friends and I are in this for the long haul. So when y’all get tired of waiting for that Harry Potter train to save you and whisk you away to a diverse Hogwarts where the sorting hat is your grandma’s church hat, and they serve shrimp and grits for breakfast, we’ll be here. Diverse books and all…
Thelonious Legend is a Science Fiction novelist and blogger. He is the host of The Blerd Book Club on Goodreads, co-host of Black Comics Chat and periodically provides reviews to Black Girl Nerds.
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