My Minister Been Black: An Analysis of Hermione Granger
Content Warning: mentions of racism and physical harm
I remember slipping it on, my favorite gold sweatshirt that has the words, “Granger 2020 Nothing is Impossible.” It came in the mail, which felt like an early Christmas present during quarantine, one of the various amounts of small joy that add up to having a full tank of Patronus Fuel. Seeing me slip it on, my Aunt Ann asked me what it stood for.
“Hermione Granger would’ve been Minister of Magic this year!” I beamed.
“A fine change from what we’ve got going on right now.” my aunt replied.
My aunt — who often smirks when I receive yet another piece of Harry Potter merch — fully acknowledged that Hermione Granger, a fictional girl-now-woman with bushy hair and a brilliant mind, would be a better government leader than current circumstances. Considering that the bar is in The Bad Place at present, it’s quite understandable that my aunt would feel that way. Still, it’s something to ruminate on:
There are people in this world who believe in the power of Black Women.
It’s funny how times, and by proxy, minds, change. When Noma Dumezweni was tapped to be Hermione in the London production of The Cursed Child, I had two thoughts:
- Oh shit, Hermione’s canonized as Black!
- Oh shit, Hermione’s canonized as Black.
This is not to take away the opportunity for young white girls to see themselves in Hermione; in fact, I hope that they continue to aspire to her level of brilliance, strategy, and excellence as a Black character. Still, it is a special opportunity for young Black girls to see themselves as the smartest in the room, the one even adults look to as a role model, and the one other children look to solve their…
Hermione Granger being named as Black now puts her in the position that is a tale as old as time: the mule of emotional labor and political savior.
Funnily enough, The Wizarding World franchise does it to yet another Black woman: Madame President Seraphina Picquery, who serves in her office in the Magical Congress not just through the years leading to the First Wizarding World, but also during the Great Depression. Considering the fact that Black Women in America were not even allowed to vote in that time period, much less hold office (my own grandmother, age 99, didn’t vote until 1965, when she was 40), it seems that Seraphina’s presence is more of a performative element of fantasy and emotional load dumping upon the shoulders of the ever reliable activists of educated Black Women, than it is to show that the creators actually care about displaying effective change. Unironically, according to canon, Grindelwald is able to generate genocidal havoc upon the world until World War II, where he is defeated by yet another problematic white man: Albus Dumbledore. Still, considering that he becomes one of the few people that Hermione holds in the highest esteem, it all works out, right?
Never mind that Hermione eventually becomes victim to another reign of terror, due to yet another problematic white man: Tom Marvolo Riddle, aka Voldemort. Racism, sexism, and classism abound not just in the regime of the Death Eaters, but also in the Ministry of Magic, and of course at Hogwarts. And yet…
Isn’t it funny that just when Hermione is about to be named Minister of Magic, the leader of the “free Magical world,” is when the author we no longer speak of fondly decides that it’s the perfect time for her to be anything other than white?
What perfect timing!
Hermione is now no longer just The Brightest Witch of Her Age, she is now the bearer of the brunt of responsibility of what happens next in Wizarding society. Having enlightened the audience of being able to see Hermione’s clearly defined journey as a Black girl, here are some moments from canon I want us to reconsider:
- Hermione, a Black girl, was the ONLY student who opposed the enslavement of House Elves.
- Hermione, a Black girl, was bullied by her fellow white students and even her teachers about her looks (Draco and Snape make crude comments about her hair and teeth).
- Hermione, a Black girl, was never considered a worthy enough date for The Yule Ball, until a FAMOUS foreigner deemed her worthy of his admiration.
- Hermione, a Black girl, organized not one but TWO grassroots organizations that were marketed to fix problems within a society that she herself was not fully welcomed into.
- Hermione, a Black girl, wiped the memories of her own PARENTS to spare them the trauma of having to worry about her as she fought to save the very society that ridiculed and denied her existence.
- Hermione, a Black girl, was called a racist slur multiple times-and even had that slur carved into her skin.
- Hermione, a Black girl, only suffered from one fear: failure.
A victim of a plethora of macro and microaggressions, Hermione continued to outwit and outdo her opponents — both individual and systemic — in a variety of ways. Her intellect and magical abilities made her a target and an overly relied upon asset (to which she hardly ever complained because the people who used her were her friends, the one thing she desperately wanted). Black women of any nationality understand this quite well. We are often only accepted within the society that persecutes us under the condition that we make ourselves useful. There’s no time for us to explore our social lives, our romances, our traumas, our fears, and our aspirations because there is WORK to be done.
It is no accident that folks say with their full chests that “Black Women will save us.” Because that is what we have always done — saved y’all with hardly any regard for our own welfare. Non-Black people survive because Black women have to survive, even though it is often you who have endangered all of us in the first place. Hermione is continually looked upon as a source of strength, wisdom, and resilience in a time where she should have been able to be a child, to seek help, to ask questions instead of always having answers. Instead, we are given a brilliant yet lonely child who must make herself useful, because that is what we as Black women have always been commanded to do.
It is no accident that her slogan is Nothing is Impossible. For Black women, it has always been assumed that this is true. We have always pooled our resources, strapped up our boots, and made even the bleakest of circumstances shine like a brand new Galleon. We have now started to say that it is our “magic” because there is no other explanation for how we manage to save this society again, and again, and — once more for good measure — again. All the while being mocked, manipulated, and even murdered.
You may have just come to the conclusion that The Brightest Witch of Her Age is more than her big hair and even bigger intellect. You may be an active member of her political campaign, as she fights to make the world, both Muggle and Wizards, a little bit better than when she found it.
Some of us been knew, and as always, we’ve been waiting for you.