J.K. Rowling has done it again. She has successfully presented a social atrocity in a very human manner. Last week she was asked if Headmaster Dumbledore of the Hogwarts School of Wizardry was gay. She replied, “Yes.” Then followed with something like – that will probably get people angry again.
Why? The answer is simple. It is called prejudice. If we Americans cannot accept cultural diversity then we should all go back to our countries of family origin. Get out your genealogy maps and book the next flight folks, because we are a country of cultural diversity. Cultural diversity is the bedrock of our society.
So why do Americans get in such a toot about the work of J.K. Rowling? Several reasons come to mind, but let us look at five words:
Generalization: an oversimplification, conclusion, or observation based on insufficient or limited experience.
Stereotype: the belief that all people of a certain group will be the same and behave in the same way.
Bias: when we fail to be objective and impartial about people or an issue. Attitude based on personal, subjective preference.
Prejudice: to judge people without really knowing them on the basis of the group they belong to. Its victims are treated as objects and not as persons. Prejudice is usually based on stereotypes and bias.
Discrimination: unequal and unfair treatment of an individual or group because of race, religion, age, physical ability, gender, etc. When people act on the basis of their prejudices and stereotypes, they are guilty of discrimination. Prejudice is an attitude while discrimination is the action that results from it.
Rowling has done a fine job of depicting diverse cultures and ideologies in a non-threatening manner. Dumbledore is a wise and kind man, ever conscious of the educational needs of his students. And he is Gay! So what?
The people who are most opposed to the Harry Potter series are usually the people who have not read the work. They have limited knowledge (generalization), they believe that all wizards and gays are the same (stereotype), their attitude is based on subjective preference (bias), they judge without really knowing (prejudice), and they act – they chastise others to boycott – threatening school systems and libraries to ban the works of Rowling (discrimination).
The brilliance of J. K. Rowling at presenting metaphors of social discourse is astounding. These are children’s books – and I would be happy for my children to have the same sensitivity to humanity as J. K. Rowling.