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Fantastic Racism / Harry Potter

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The series is famous for its discussion of racism in a fictional setting:

  • We are first exposed to Fantastic Racism with the Muggle Dursleys' almost psychotic hatred of witches and wizards, whom they refuse to call anything but "freaks". This initially stems from their general hatred of magic for its anormality, but devolves into full-on racism with their hatred of wizard-born Harry Potter even when he's still an infant, based solely on what he is.
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  • Meanwhile, we soon discover that practically everyone in the Wizarding world (well, Wizarding Britain) who wasn't raised by Muggles seems to look down on them. While many of the jobs in the wizarding world that Harry and company are thinking about in book 5 require high academic achievement, all the Muggle Relations department wants is an O.W.L. in Muggle Studies and "a good sense of fun." Hagrid makes contemptuous remarks about Muggles to the Dursleys — the Dursleys certainly deserve contempt, but Hagrid's comments make clear that he feels that way about all Muggles. Molly Weasley, generally a "good" character, is ashamed of her second cousin who's a Squib. Even Arthur Weasley the Muggle aficionado who fights for Muggle rights and protections, still seems to regard them with a degree of fond condescension. Many wizards, and especially the purebloods, live wholly segregated from Muggle society—Arthur Weasley is fascinated by Muggle knickknacks, but apparently he never imagines getting a house in London and actually living among Muggles. (Of course he has lived in a wizarding neighboorhood his entire life and Muggles have a very different culture.) It's actually a significant bit of Character Development when Ron Weasley, a pureblood who grew up knowing precisely zero about the Muggle world, mentions in the last scene of the last book that he passed a Muggle driving test.
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  • Next up is the whole 'Pureblood Supremacy' concept: wizards who believe that not only are muggles beasts who should be put down, but being born from Muggles is a disgrace even if one is actually a wizard. This ideology is championed by Lucius Malfoy and his son Draco, and was supported by Lord Voldemort, though it's implied he was manipulating the pureblood supremacists from his own ends rather than actually believing it. It is important to note that Muggle-despising and Pureblood Supremacy do not necessarily go hand-in-hand: the previous Evil Overlord, Gellert Grindelwald, had nothing against muggleborn wizards but still thought muggles were scum. Ron highlights how ridiculous the concept of blood purity is in Chamber of Secrets by pointing out that the majority of wizards have at least some Muggle ancestry and that if wizards didn't marry Muggles, they would've died out a long time ago. Pureblood Supremacists get around this by just ignoring any muggleborns in their family tree histories. Some extremists go as far as to marry their own cousins to avoid "dirtying" the bloodline. Members of these families have a well-earned reputation for being mentally unstable. Supplemental material revealed that the Malfoys have never been as fanatical about keeping the blood-line 100% pure as some of the other families (they'll marry half-bloods) because they believe that diversifying their gene pool for this reason is more important.
  • The various magical sapient species are also heavily discriminated against:
    • Goblins, in spite of being wizards' equal in intelligence, magic and civilization, are second-class citizens who have rebelled several times over the centuries for the right to use wands, in vain.
    • Centaurs are seen as "half-breeds" at best and animals at worst.
      • It is, perhaps, worth noting that the Ministry of Magic classifies all living creatures as either "beast" or "being", with the latter being less discriminated against. Centaurs are classed as "beasts", and thus discriminated against greatly... because they themselves discriminated, and weren't willing to share "being" classification with things like vampires. According to tie-in materials, they were also insulted that humans thought they had authority in such matters at all, and originally insisted on the beast classification after the mermaid civilization was filed there for not speaking English (which was later rectified).
    • There are several, less civilized races whose unjust situation never actually comes up in the books, or barely. For instance, Giants, Trolls, Erklings and Yumboes. Cornelius Fudge mentions to Dumbledore that "everybody hates Giants" and Ron to Harry that they are "vicious", for their violent and bloodthirsty behavior. Half-giants such as Hagrid are held in mild contempt by many Wizards and Witches as outcasts, such as Draco Malfoy who calls him an "oaf" and Dolores Umbridge, a heavily prejudiced women against all kinds of "half-breeds" who talked to him like he was retarded and mocked him in front of his own students. Of course, for those who got to become friends with Hagrid, they know the prejudices held against them aren't true - the best example being Madame Maxime, the Headmistress of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. Still, while Hagrid had no problem with accepting his Giant heritage, Madame Maxime fiercely and angrily denied hers, claiming to have "big bones" instead, in fear of the stigma she would face if her parentage come into the light. It is worth noting that Hagrid, while being a warm and compassionate person towards Harry and his friends, often displays traits commonly associated with Giants: violent outbursts of rage (but again, in an understandable context), some poor social manners, and a liking to creatures which are very dangerous, such as Acromantulas and Dragons, and underestimated some dangers they could pose to his students. He even admits that his Giantess mother left his father because Giants don't really have parental instincts.
      • As a result of the hatred and fear Giants met from wizardkind, they lived in the Mountains and even then, they were tracked down and killed. No wonder why they were a recruit of choice for Voldemort's army.
      • It is worth noting that even Grawp, Hagrid's fully-Giant-half-brother, was rejected by his own kind for being "too small". Giants take pride in their big babies and are disappointed if they are not as big as expected.
    • House-Elves are a whole race that work as servants for wizards (and enslaved to them through magic that can only be broken by their master presenting them with clothes), doing things like cleaning and cooking (without pay or time off). Hermione Granger starts a campaign to free them, but soon finds out to her dismay that (be it thanks to centuries of conditioning or natural Blue-and-Orange Morality), lots of Elves just can't take the shock to suddenly be free, and most don't want to be free or paid for their work (let alone no longer working), and they even consider the thought to be horrific and blasphemous.note  She gives up on freeing them but still campaigns for them to be treated fairly rather than abused as they often were, and that immediately pays off. Indeed, many House-Elf owners routinely beat their elves, and the Ministry as a whole treated them more like household appliances than people. For instance, in The Half Blood Prince, Tom Riddle murdered a woman for her artefacts and framed her House Elf for it. Dumbledore tells Harry that the Ministry should have investigated further but didn't "... because she was a House Elf". The narration states that Harry had never sympathized with Hermione's campaign as much as he did at that moment.
      • Hermione herself exhibits some of this. She claims that she knows better what house elves should want than they do because they are brainwashed and uneducated. Her reaction to the new Divination teacher being a centaur is downright racist, as she refers to him as a "horse" and, when called on this, replies, "He's got four legs, hasn't he?" Granted, in the context of the quote, she seems to have been trying to get Parvati and Lavender (who were swooning over Firenze's good looks and teasing her by saying that because of that, she probably regretted dropping Divination) to shut up, so this might not be a representation of her true feelings, but even still.
    • Notably, the statue in the main hall at the Ministry of Magic depicts an elf, a goblin, and a centaur, all gazing up worshipfully at a witch and wizard. Harry inwardly notes that the only statue that rings true is the house-elf, as the series makes clear that goblins and centaurs tend to dislike wizards on good days.
  • Though merpeople seem to be pretty well-off, they are actually the perpetrators in another case of Fantastic Racism: they are shown to have completely enslaved a race of water demons known as Grindylows, keeping them as pets, which would be fine if the books didn't indicate that Grindylows are at least semi-sentient (additional information, such as in the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them book is somewhat equivocal, referring to them as being 'domesticated' by Merpeople, implying that they're more animalistic).
  • There is no indication that Magical Portraits have any rights at all, even though the characters depicted in them are quite sentient (though granted, the details of how it works are... unknown.)
    • Word of God states that the portraits are actually not truly people. Instead, they imitate sapience by acting as the portrait painter perceives the subject. This imitation can be significantly improved by the portrait's subject, if alive, spending time with the portrait to teach it how to act more like the original, but they remain unable to do more than imitate their living counterparts in the limited ways they have been taught and have no original thoughts.
  • Werewolves are treated very poorly, with both legal and social discrimination making it nigh-impossible to find employment, which is particularly unfortunate, as the Wolfsbane Potion, allowing a werewolf to retain their mind during their transformations, is complex and expensive to brew. Indeed, the primary reason Remus Lupin accepted the cursed Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position was because Dumbledore offered him a supply of the potion. Harry’s parents had to financially support him before their deaths because he couldn’t find a job.
  • Squibs are treated terribly by the magical world. While it’s understandable that they’d go off and get a Muggle education, they don’t seem to have any sort of contact with their families. It’s not understandable to disown (or worse, see below) someone for something out of their control. Auntie Muriel suggests that she thinks Dumbledore’s mother locked his sister in the house and killed her when she got too old to keep imprisoned because everyone assumes she’s a squib (which she wasn’t). Mind you, his mother was muggleborn herself meaning that they’re thought of so poorly that someone could think a woman raised by muggles would kill her own daughter for being one. One of Mrs. Weasley’s cousins is said to be one and Ron implies she doesn’t speak to him at all.


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