J.K. Rowling shuts down anyone who thinks Noma Dumezweni can't play Hermione.

Those who thought Harry Potter would end after "The Deathly Hallows" have been thrilled by recent announcements from the Potterverse.

Author J.K. Rowling at the launch of the website Pottermore. Photo via AFP/Getty Images.


These developments include not only a Harry Potter theme park and the movie version of "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" but also a continuation of Harry Potter's story following the boy-wizard as an all-grown-up and stressed out Ministry of Magic employee and his middle child, Albus Severus Potter, in a stage play called "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child."

The latest news about the "Cursed Child" made waves over the weekend when it was announced that Hermione will be played by a black woman.

Unfortunately, some people are less than pleased about this.

Actress Noma Dumezweni is a London stage veteran who won a Laurence Olivier Award for best performance in a supporting role for 2005's "A Raisin in the Sun," and she will play Hermione opposite Jamie Parker as Harry and Paul Thornley as Ron.

Noma Dumezweni holding her Olivier Award. Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images.

The funny (sad-funny, not haha-funny) thing is though, film adaptations of stories that originally starred actors of color are routinely white-washed. Just look at "21," which was about Asian-American MIT students gaming Las Vegas casinos but was adapted to star a white actor in the main role. Or "The Last Samurai," in which Tom Cruise played a samurai.

This practice goes back to Hollywood's golden age and continues even today, with Johnny Depp playing a Native American in a "Lone Ranger" adaptation and Emma Stone being cast as a part-Asian character in "Aloha."

When characters who are meant to be black or brown are played by white actors, the defense is usually that Hollywood is a meritocracy and casting directors simply pick the best actor for the role regardless of skin color. But when an actor of color is cast in a role that many assume to be white, people are suddenly concerned about authenticity.

Even when a character in a book who is described as a person of color is played by a person of color, people are upset because they assumed the character was white (see the casting of Amandla Stenberg as Rue in "The Hunger Games").

People criticized Amandla Stenberg's casting as Rue in "The Hunger Games" because of her race. Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images.

In a world where characters can do magic and mail is delivered by owl or where governments force children to fight to the death each year, is it really so unbelievable and inauthentic to think that a character could be anything other than white?

When the news of Hermione's casting broke, some fans couched their displeasure as concern for J.K. Rowling, who they thought might be upset by the casting decision.

They could not have been more wrong. Rowling responded like the class act that she is:

Boom. Mic drop. Hermione's race was never stated in the books.

The Potter movies chose to portray Hermione as a white woman. Hermione appears on the cover of "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" with white skin as well.


And that's fine! That's a choice the casting director for the films made. That's a choice the book artist made. Those are choices made not based on descriptions of Hermione in the text but on assumptions made in a world that assumes that, unless otherwise specified, people and characters are white.

The casting director for "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" has chosen to portray Hermione as a black woman.

And both portrayals are acceptable, and J.K. Rowling approved interpretations of the character.

Though Emma Watson as Hermione in the Harry Potter movies is iconic, it's a sign of progress to have a woman of color inhabiting this role. Photo by Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images.

One of the critiques that the Potter series has faced since its release is that Rowling didn't seem to write a lot of main roles for people of color in the Harry Potter series. The only explicit diversity in the movies were in background roles, such as the Indian Patil sisters, Potter classmate Dean Thomas, Quidditch captain Angelina Johnson, and love interest Cho Chang (aka The One Before Ginny).

What we can learn from this conversation is how we all need to be more open-minded about diversity in pop culture. Perhaps this is something J.K. Rowling has realized after the fact. Perhaps this is something she wished she had made explicitly clear in the books, or perhaps she enjoys people interpreting her work in new and different ways.

It's great that such a beloved piece of pop culture is moving into the 21st century.

Most Shared

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens
via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture