Why We Needed A Black Hermione

by Kimberly Foster for Newsweek @KimberlyNFoster

The cast has been announced for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the stage production billed as the eighth installment of the Harry Potter saga. Harry and Ron Weasley will be portrayed by the sort of esteemed British actors one might picture in a reimagining of the iconic literary series. But as Hermione Granger, South African-British actor Noma Dumezweni was cast—a wonderful surprise.

To be clear, Dumezweni is esteemed in her own right. The Laurence Olivier Award-winning actress is more than capable of bringing the beloved heroine to the stage. But because she is a black woman, backlash against Dumezweni’s presence in the play has been swift.

Emma Watson, a white actress, played the character on film, but Hermione’s race is never stated explicitly in the books. J.K. Rowling herself tweeted on Monday that she “loves black Hermione” and noted that Dumezweni is not, necessarily, an aesthetic departure from what was written.

But fans who have a deep connection to the characters continue to express outrage at the choice. That Hermione was assumed to be white and so many cannot conceive of her being anything else underscores why this casting was so necessary.

A black Hermione is important not only for communities who rarely have the opportunity to see themselves in these roles but for mainstream audiences who view whiteness as the default.

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