Is a black Hermione really such a big deal?

A stage version of Harry Potter is due to start in the West End in May, and it has caused a bit of controversy because the actress who has been cast to play Hermione is black. Now, I saw this trending on Twitter last night and today, and  I was actually incredibly disappointed when I saw this, because I knew everyone would be focusing on the fact that Hermione is ‘’supposed’’ to be white.

From what I recall, there are no explicit references to Hermione’s skin tone. Her race is not a central theme in the books.  She’s just described as having bushy hair and big teeth. I don’t have the books to hand, but a bit of research has told me her Mum was described as a brunette and Hermione as blushing red and having a white face at some point in the Prisoner of Azakaban. So maybe Hermione wasn’t black, she could have been mixed race. Mixed race people can be incredibly pale (My skin goes dark brown in the summer and an off pale yellow in the winter), non white people  actually blush as well.

However, this is neither here nor there. The issue I have is that people are just illogical when it comes to arguing about why it’s important Hermione is white. The one that has really annoyed me is the ‘’Well, that means we can cast a white actor as Martin Luther King’’ and ‘’Can’t wait for the new Tupac biopic with Kevin Chegwin’’. In case you weren’t aware, Martin Luther King and Tupac were real people, one was an activist and another was a Hip-hop artist and their blackness is a central theme to their story. Martin Luther King was a black man striving for racial equality and Tupac’s music discussed the oppression of black people ranging from police brutality to living in the projects. It’s like saying let’s cast an Indian woman as Amy Winehouse. Hermione Granger, however, is a fictional character.  The beauty of literature is that one character can be born an infinite number of times and be envisioned completely differently every single time.

However, if people want to stringently restrict the roles an actor can play based on the colour of his or her skin, then I for one don’t want to see another white actor playing Jesus again. After all, Jesus was born in the Middle East. The same applies to Cleopatra, I want to see an Egyptian actress playing her not Elizabeth Taylor or Angeline Jolie.

The black actress playing Hermione is not the first actor/actress to play a character who may have been a different colour. She probably won’t be the last. I’m just disappointed that those who claim to love Harry Potter don’t love the beauty of literature in that a character can be whoever you want he or she to be.

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