We Need To Talk About Harry Potter

Over the weekend, a college student in Minnesota took J.K. Rowling to task for racism. And it was awesome.

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You like Harry Potter, right? It’s a suitably dark romp through a magic-filled world that ends just right, with all things good and lovely saved from previously unvanquishable evil by a pretty boy. What’s not to love?

Enter Rachel Rostad, student at Macalester College in Minnesota and Poetry Slammer Extraordinaire. At the recent, competitive College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI), she performed her poem ‘To JK Rowling, from Cho Chang’ — and thankfully, someone filmed it.

Passionately delivered, it’s probably the most inspiring poetry ever spawned by Harry Potter (to the chagrin of fan-ficcers around the world). Rostad throws down so many stand-out lines: “Of course the only Asian at Hogwarts would be in the nerdy house,” she blasts. ”Too bad there wasn’t a house that specialised in computers and math and karate, huh?” She speaks as Cho Chang, calling Rowling “the latest participant in a long tradition of turning Asian women into a tragic fetish”, and calling herself “a best-selling caricature”.

But what makes it even more fantastic is Rachel Rostad’s response to her critics. Rather than backtracking in the face of virulent trolls, Potter fanboys and general internet malaise, she’s put together a response video, diffusing aggressive naysayers and admitting her mistakes.

Perhaps most importantly, Rostad actively encourages the discussion — both of her piece, and of J.K. Rowling’s work. “Dialogue about social justice is not about blaming people for making mistakes … it’s about calling attention to mistakes and using those mistakes as an opportunity to grow”.

Rostad is keeping the conversation rolling on her tumblr and Facebook page, and is probably the best person on the internet this week.

So, now — what do you think of Harry Potter?

Alex Sol Watts is a Wee Waa-born and Sydney-based marketer with just enough time on his hands. You can find him on most of the internet as @solwat