Monday, July 23, 2007

Acting White: Harry Potter and Black Boys

My 12 year old son is a Harry Potter maniac – and has been from the start. I have always looked upon this as a sign of his healthy development, but his fascination takes on even greater significance as we consider the disparities between black and white and how they are reinforced. We have encouraged him to have heroes of all types, especially color. To do anything else would be to limit the dream engine powering him towards all that he can do and be in life.

However, my son is not like most black boys. He is so fearless of the accusation of ‘acting white’ that he would gladly stand in a line for hours to buy the latest Potter book, movie ticket, or a high-tech wizard’s wand. Less we worry, he is truly agnostic, having pursued Star Wars, and Jedi Samuel Jackson’s Mace Wendu costume, with a vengeance. A white kid in his school pointed out on Halloween that Harry Potter was white, to which my son replied, ‘so’.

We are bombarded daily, including this blog, with the differences between black academic achievement and the rest of America. Black males graduate at less than 70% the rate of whites for a myriad of reasons, including the notion that boyhood emulation of non-black heroes, athletic or academic, is somehow not right for black kids. Well this is definitely a position to re-consider. The boy doesn’t want to be white, he just wants to turn his sister into a hamster, for heaven’s sake!

It is great that millions of white kids wanted to be like Michael Jordan, and it is perfectly okay for black boys to believe in Santa Claus and want to be like Harry Potter. Tragic is the only word that comes to mind when I think of a kid with no dreams because none seem to fit the color of his or her skin.

James C. Collier


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That Girl Boo said...

This is a great post, I've cut down my daughter from watching t.v. because she begin to act like the silly carefree white children who often commit some ridiculous acts and a get second and third chance after drinking or stealing. Often when our children make one mistake they're paying for it.
I try to surround her with as many positive images of us as I can.
As far as Santa well my husband & I agreed a long time ago that were not going to allow her to believe that some really nice white man is coming to her house to make all of her material wants come true, thous leaving her dad the real hero, only to stand in the back ground and clap at what a wonderful job the white man has done. Just my 2 cents
That Girl Boo from

Lola Gets said...

My neice loves the Harry Potter series too. Ive never wondered if she was acting "too white" or "too Black", but hey, look at me!

I did have some concern when she started calling things (and people) "ghetto", because I was worried she might be developing a classist nature, but she grew out of that.


Anonymous said...

"A white kid in his school pointed out on Halloween that Harry Potter was white, to which my son replied, ‘so’."

LMAO. Good for him.

I have always regarded the debate surrounding role models in the black community in the USA as a little suspect because I think that the best role models children can have are responsible, supportive and well informed parents. Anything after that is icing on the cake.

Growing up in Barbados, I had a number of heroines/heros of various ethnicities, but the thing that was remarkable about them for me, was not the colour of their skin but their command of their area of expertiste.

Eddie G. Griffin said...

Nice thoughts. But I think we will do better to teach our children what Heros are made of.

Antonio said...

I can relate to the "Harry Potter is white" comment. I heard similar comments throughout childhood concerning white fictional characters, as if skin color was the only reason I could appreciate someone.

Brown Sugar said...

I'm confused. I like harry potter. My friends like harry Potter. And we are 20 something Black women?

Harry Potter doesn't = White.

John Anthony said...

We'd do better to teach our kids what heroes are made of?? Oh Please....must everything be said from a lofty perch??? Heroes are made of bologna, salami, ham, chicken, meat, tomatoes, lettuce.....and we ALL like them, black and white, and everybody in between!
Let the kid enjoy his hero without having to add an asterisk explaining that one is white and the other is black- **yawn**

Anonymous said...

lol! the very reason why James posted this is because he knows a black hero would have suited his son better. I have a 13 year old brother who knows pretty much knows my position regarding this, I bought him this copy of the french verson of Harry potter just because him and his clique were all over the whole Harry potter thing but that's just that. I will never pretend one minute that colour does not matter especially when it comes to heroes lol!. and i think it is utterly wrong to assume ( or to let be known ) that only grown up blacks are making a colour issue when the cream of the white privilege is that "colour blindess" tssskkk!!! you can have your blond blue eyed Viking in your living room if you want .