Pureblood Supremacy and Reverse Racism: A Lesson from Salazar Slytherin

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Slyherin House has been a source for antagonists since book one, but are we really getting it right? I talk about Houses, race, and Harry Potter in this essay, so come hither!

Submitted: June 04, 2017

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Submitted: June 04, 2017

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Pureblood Supremacy and Reverse Racism:
A Lesson from Salazar Slytherin

The Slytherin House from the Harry Potter series is one of the most infamous groups in the franchise, well known for families such as the Malfoys who are outright Pureblood Supremacists – which has been equated with White Supremacy – and is the House of the main antagonist, Lord Voldemort, who seeks to eradicate wizards with “impure” blood. Author JK Rowling herself admits that Voldemort and Pureblood Supremacy has parallels with Nazism, where “Semites” are half-blood or Muggle-born (Muggle is a term for non-magic folk) witches and wizards. This has led to heavy stigma in both the fictional world and among readers, antagonizing Slytherin House. That very stigma gives quite an illuminating lesson in the real world concerning White Supremacy and Reverse Racism, or racism and discrimination against a dominant group, particularly towards Caucasians today.

In social media, there are movements such as #BlackLivesMatter that seek to atone for wrongs done to people of color in the past. Some have taken to open hostility and discrimination to Caucasians in the name of regaining balance. Memes are also utilized in fueling this type of behavior, such as one from a scene in Disney’s Pocahontas with the caption “These white men are dangerous” and the comment “History in one image.” In order to understand the root of these attitudes, we must look into the past.

Colonization started with Europeans invading “uncivilized” countries and instilling indigenous populations with technologies and knowledge of the Western World in addition to imposing Christianity. There were many harms done to indigenous populations across the globe, even when their descendants reached America where black slaves were imported from Africa. Slavery was abolished in December of 1865 and there have been laws and financial or land opportunities placed for black and Native American people in the United States, but there have been social justice movements in recent years to further “compensate” for history. A similar phenomenon occurs in the Harry Potter franchise.

We get a look at Pureblood Supremacy with the Malfoys – all Slytherins – particularly in The Chamber of Secrets. The titular character Harry Potter hears Lucius Malfoy, his rival’s father, mention that “’Wizard blood is counting for less everywhere’” (Rowling 52), and Draco Malfoy is also seen being hostile to “Mudbloods” (magic folk who have Muggle blood). Other characters also view Slytherins as being haughty and villainous, and the other Houses even band together against Slytherin during a Quidditch (wizard sport) tournament in Hogwarts, the witchcraft and wizardry school. Even many readers tend to have a negative bias toward Slytherin House in their comments, saying that Pureblood Supremacy is similar to White Supremacy.

Although Rowling had intended to equate Voldemort’s ideals with Nazism, and readers have drawn parallels between Pureblood Supremacy with White Supremacy, this is a backwards perception from failing to see the entire picture. In the second Harry Potter book, we read about the four founders of Hogwarts with particular emphasis on Salazar Slytherin, whose “Chamber of Secrets” is the point of interest in the book. Discrimination against half-bloods and Muggle-borns has presumably been present even before their time, as reverse racism has been before social justice movements, but it is through Salazar Slytherin that it gains momentum. Slytherin believed that the school should only be open to pure-blooded witches and wizards because he believed half-bloods and Muggle-borns to be untrustworthy. This has been perceived as the similarity with Nazism and White Supremacy, but in the previous paragraph, it explains why Slytherin feels this way. The four founders of Hogwarts chose to isolate their school because “’it was an age when magic was feared by common people, and witches and wizards suffered much persecution’” (Rowling 150). Many readers easily antagonize Slytherin Pureblood Supremacists, but fail to consider the basis for it.

As many people of color have been, magic-folk in the Harry Potter franchise were persecuted in their world. Salazar Slytherin chose to discriminate against impure magic folk and attempt to bar them from entry into Hogwarts, much like the idea of reverse racism against Caucasians. Social justice movements tend to support other Hogwarts Houses in antagonizing Slytherin, but they are unwittingly disapproving of their own reverse racism.

In short, there are indeed reflections of history and current racial attitudes in Rowling’s series, but they are misapplied and misunderstood, much as Slytherins are. Pureblood Supremacy is reverse racism when you look at the whole picture, and social justice warriors’ attitudes toward Slytherins shows that deep down, we know that reverse racism is wrong and only perpetuates racism and discrimination. I hope that you keep this in mind the next time you say that all Slytherins are evil Supremacists.

Bibliography

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastic, 2000.

Rowling, J.K. “J.K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall Reveals Dumbledore is Gay; Neville Marries Hannah Abbot, and Much More.” The Leaky Cauldron, 20 October 2007, http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/2007/10/20/j-k-rowling-at-carnegie-hall-reveals-dumbledore-is-gay-neville-marries-hannah-abbott-and-scores-more


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