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June 2016

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malksaviary: APH England staring off into the distance pensively and drinking tea. (Default)
Every time I’ve seen J.K. Rowling talk about racial issues that are a problem within the UK, she’s handled it with at least a modicum of grace. She’s clearly okay with Indian and Pakistani people, she’s okay with Jewish people, she’s okay with people headcanoning her characters as any race they want. She’s okay with Irish and Scottish people. She tends to stick up for the little guy.

So what the fuck happened with Ilvermorny? Why did she think it was okay to rip off Native American symbols?

Well, some context.

This is from a French movie that came out in 1994- the same year that JKR was working on the rough-draft manuscript of Philosopher’s Stone.

A still from Asterix Conquers America, showing Obelix interacting with some incredibly racially caricatured Native Americans.

There are ... not many Native Americans in Europe. In fact, when I was writing this post, I tried to find statistics, and I couldn’t; the number’s vanishingly small. Because of this, most Europeans are entirely clueless about Native Americans. They might vaguely know that there are different tribes, but not much more than that. Furthermore, most Europeans are entirely clueless about Native American issues. They don’t know what’s okay and what’s not okay. There’s not really anyone face to face that they can ask. If you’re doing research on your own, it’s a little more difficult to figure out where the lines are drawn.

JKR pretty clearly doesn’t know much about America, and though you get the sense that she tried to research it, it doesn’t look like she had anyone American look over this stuff before she put it on Pottermore. So she was coming from an entirely clueless place, she tried to research, and she failed spectacularly.

And people on the internet regularly do the same darn thing. Might I direct you to this post, and then to this one? Magic is forbidden in Islam, and yet people on Tumblr keep drawing hijabi magical girls and writing about Beauxbatons being a predominately Muslim school. Because they think it’s neat, or good representation, or what have you. And while some Muslims think this is neat, a lot think that this is Not Okay.

But coming from an American cultural background, you don’t know much about Islam, because there aren’t many Muslims in America. It's an honest mistake that has racist effects. And you can apologise, work through it, and not do it again in the future.

TL:DR; I think this was an honest mistake, and one that’s a little more understandable coming from someone with her cultural background. While it definitely had racist effects, it wasn’t intended as a racist act.
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