Lecturer points to racism in Harry Potter
Nature of science fiction discusses race in unseen ways
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 16:02
Eric Hamako from the University of Massachusetts Amherst came to speak to UConn students and faculty Wednesday about the increasing popularity of racist movies. Racism in this case is referring to stereotypes or what “Psychology Today” calls “empirical generalizations.” These generalizations stem from what may be or may have been true for a number of people, but do not extend to every member of a group.
Following this understanding of stereotypes, Dictionary.com defines racism as, “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.”
Hamako, who has a master’s degree in mass communication from Stanford and is half-Japanese and half-Jewish, lectures on the position of multiracial Americans in society. His lecture, “Harry Potter and the Mistaken Myth of the Mixed-Race Messiah,” addresses the polar opposite of the overt racism that was so prevalent in pre-Civil Rights Movement America: mass media subtle projections of stereotypes.
“Sci-fi, fantasy movies talk in code so that you can talk about mixed-ethnics without realizing you’re talking about it” he said.
Hamako sees society’s views of multiracial people as based on the “old-view” and the “new view.” The “old” mixed-race view was filled with negative stereotypes; hybrid degeneracy, dysfunctional family origin, polluting whiteness and threats to communities of color and whites are all traits his previous audiences have proposed as falling in this category. The “new” mixed-race view is full of positive stereotypes; mixed-race people are “best of both worlds,” open-minded, kinder, more attractive and allegedly “the end of racism” This is a point that Hamako does not support.
He advised, “We should always ask, ‘if mixed-race is better, better than what?’”
Most Western stories, Hamako believes, are based off Christian models, most importantly the Messianic story. Many movies feature an evil satanic-like villain being vanquished by a good messiah-like hero. Hamako takes this a step further by interpreting the heroes and villains of most movies as being in some form mixed-race; to use the Harry Potter example, Harry and Voldemort are both mixed-blood. Voldemort represents the old view and Harry represents the new – vanquishing the inconvenient old racist view.
After presenting numerous examples of multiracial and messianic hints throughout Harry Potter, which he concedes were likely not made on purpose, but have instead become a fundamental part of Western storytelling, Hamako concluded by inferring that the worries of society stem from anxieties about race and, “Hollywood movies are trying to resolve people’s anxieties by pitting stories about the old mixed-race against the new mixed-race.”