Is JK Rowling Racist?
Start writing a post

Is JK Rowling Racist?

The famous author is under fire for her newest installment on Pottermore.

Is JK Rowling Racist?

When J.K. Rowling announced that she would be releasing a four part series on Pottermore of the history of magic in America earlier this March, Americans everywhere rejoiced. For years, we learned everything there is to know about wizards and witches of the UK, and were forced to merely imagine what the magical culture might be like in the USA.

However, the first 400 word piece on the history of magic in 14th century America caused a controversy among Native Americans as many of them held issue with the portrayal of their ancestors. One of the most notorious problems is how Rowling connects magic to Native American beliefs and traditions. She identifies the Navajo legend of Skin Walkers as a legend that “has its basis in fact” as it derives from Animagi (the shape shifters of the Harry Potter World). This greatly offended Cherokee scholar Dr. Adrianne Keene, who tweeted at Rowling that “skinwalker stories have context, roots, and reality … You can’t just claim and take a living tradition of a marginalised people." Furthermore, Native American medicine men are claimed to be wizards, or people pretending to be wizards, who use magic to heal. Many Native American people feel that in portraying Native American culture as magical, Rowling is fictionalizing and trivializing their history and culture.

Another issue that people spoke out against was that Rowling generalizes the many diverse native tribes as one “Native American magical community," which perpetuates a stereotype that all Native American people share the same culture and beliefs. Although to be fair, she also groups all Americans as one community, despite there being diversity in different areas of the country.

Finally, Leanne Howe claims that Rowling is adding to the “trope of the vanishing Indian” by referring to Native American culture as something only of the past. In an article in National Geographic, author Becky Little notes that “when native traditions are constantly depicted as relics, it gives the impression that those traditions—and the more than 5 million native people in the United States—don’t exist anymore.” It is notable that Rowling only spoke of the Native American magical culture in past tense in the first part of this series.

You may be asking yourself, why does this matter? It’s only a fictional world, after all.

It matters because even fictional stories affect the way we view the world. If you’re going to include a real culture into your fictional world, it does best to portray them in the most accurate and respectful way possible. In a blog post, Keene notes how often Native Americans are seen as fantasy characters in the media: such as in Twilight, Peter Pan, and now Harry Potter. She adds “we’re not magical creatures, we’re contemporary peoples who are still here, and still practice our spiritual traditions, traditions that are not akin to a completely imaginary wizarding world.”

I’m sure many Harry Potter fans agree that the series changed their life in some way, despite their knowledge of its fictionality. Even these short stories affect people, especially Native American fans of Harry Potter who have been waiting to see themselves represented in these stories, just as the rest of us North Americans were.

However, I would like to add that in the fourth installment of the series, Rowling names a character Shikoba Wolfe as a famous wandmaker in the 1920s, who is also a descendant of the Choctaw tribe. It is significant that Rowling includes a successful Native American witch living in 1920s America, and specifies her specific tribe rather than as simply being Native American.

I agree that J.K. should have done more research on Native Americans, and been more aware of how her story trivializes their culture. But, I also think that her mention of the 1920s Choctaw wandmaker in the fourth piece of the series is very important, and expunged some of the claims that she generalizes all Native Americans into one group and that she adds to the trope of “the vanishing Indian." It is definitely not a perfect solution to the criticisms, but I think it is absolutely a step in the right direction.

Honestly, what most offended me upon first reading this series was that muggles in America are called “No-Majs” (as in No-Magics). Come on. Are Americans really that uncreative?

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Robert Bye on Unsplash

I live by New York City and I am so excited for all of the summer adventures.

Keep Reading... Show less

The invention of photography

The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.


The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers


Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series


Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

How Young Feminists Can Understand And Subvert The Internalized Male Gaze

Women's self-commodification, applied through oppression and permission, is an elusive yet sexist characteristic of a laissez-faire society, where women solely exist to be consumed. (P.S. justice for Megan Fox)

Paramount Pictures

Within various theories of social science and visual media, academics present the male gaze as a nebulous idea during their headache-inducing meta-discussions. However, the internalized male gaze is a reality, which is present to most people who identify as women. As we mature, we experience realizations of the perpetual male gaze.

Keep Reading... Show less

It's Important To Remind Yourself To Be Open-Minded And Embrace All Life Has To Offer

Why should you be open-minded when it is so easy to be close-minded?


Open-mindedness. It is something we all need a reminder of some days. Whether it's in regards to politics, religion, everyday life, or rarities in life, it is crucial to be open-minded. I want to encourage everyone to look at something with an unbiased and unfazed point of view. I oftentimes struggle with this myself.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments