Last week I did a video about race and I usually don’t address these kinds of topics, but I noticed that it didn’t solve the world’s problems as I expected it would. People are still freaking out and even people who are very removed from what’s going on in the United States are unable to escape it as if it’s a problem sitting at their front door.
Harry Potter is a story that, for my generation and those that have followed it, has held a common appeal and in a time when we so desperately need to find some sense of common ground, maybe we can find something there.
Now I know that there is a portion of my audience who are fixated on the problems in Harry Potter and I concede that those problems exist, though not as many as the accusations would imply, so if you’re hung up on it, I’d recommend watching my earlier video on Harry Potter which I’ll link in the YouTube description.
If you don’t want to take the time to do so, let me say this. Catholic Christians have always been a shrewd people: able to distinguish what value they can find in any work while discerning the parts that have no value.
That’s why we didn’t throw Aristotle or Plato out with the bathwater as Martin Luther did. Instead we mined them for the great value they provided and integrated their thought into our theology.
The great Catholic scholastic, Hugh of St. Victor said that a humble student should hold no writing in contempt. And while Harry Potter is not the Iliad, it is the most prolific story for an entire generation of people, so it impresses upon us that we should explore it to see if there’s some good we can all agree on within it rather than hold it in contempt.
So with that all said, there’s a theme in the Harry Potter stories that could serve as a source of insight for the moment of history we find ourselves because underneath the mythology and the magic, Harry Potter is about a global struggle between hate-filled supremacists and… well, everyone else.
The villain of the story is Lord Voldemort, who is basically a magical Hitler. He believes in something called pure-blood supremacy which is the idea that only those people who can prove that their genetic lineage is composed exclusively of magical folk should be considered true witches and wizards while those who have parents that may include non-magic folk aren’t pure enough in their bloodline to be considered truly magical.
Much like the Nazi’s eugenics programs, Voldemort’s regime would have created a hierarchy out of society that would place those deemed worthy by virtue of their pure blood at the top and would impose restrictions on those with a tainted genetic line.
Now, the reality of that fictional world testifies that this blood supremacy isn’t grounded in anything objective or real. It’s just a construct fabricated by those for whom it would favor. In other words, it’s arbitrarily designed by those who meet its requirements to seat them in positions of authority, power, and privilege by virtue of their having the meaningless qualities it assigns by birth.
And as the child characters of the story are introduced to this concept by one of their peers who uses the pejorative mudblood to describe someone who has non magical parents, we get the most sane reaction to this ideology that can be offered.
It comes from a character named Hagrid who is an adult caretaker at their school, but is simple minded enough that he has more in common with the students than the faculty. When the topic is brought up in his presence, he replies by saying that it’s “codswallop and that there isn't a wizard alive today that's not half-blood or less.”
In other words, it’s a meaningless categorization and classification of human beings that doesn’t actually depict anything grounded in fact.
A similarly meaningless categorization exists in the real world and it has been debunked by modern anthropology and genetic science. It was proposed by those for whom it favored and would seat them at the top of the totem pole so that they could justify injustice directed towards those they deemed to be less human than they were.
As the so-called enlightenment took hold of the popular mindset of European and eventually North American civilization, thinkers, more and more, disregarded metaphysical explanations for reality in favour of purely natural or scientific explanations.
This gave way to a desire to see everything through a Darwinian and evolutionary lens so that when Europeans compared themselves to indigenous people in Africa or America, they could reduce their inquiry to nothing more than the material facts and what they found there was that in a struggle between Europeans and people of other continents, the Europeans would win, and are therefore more fit to survive and are therefore, more evolved.
Ideas about all human beings deriving equal dignity by virtue of the fact that we are created in the image of God was a silly superstition that modern scientific men had dispelled.
And this new scientific anthropology produced a crude categorization of all of humanity into 5 races which were Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Ethiopian, American Indian, and Malayan with no appreciation for the nuances and incredible diversity that exists within this continental schema.
Like, imagine how ignorant and dishonest you’d have to be to say that all the people on that massive continent of Africa can be meaningfully described by this infantile categorization. And not only that, we can do the same with all the people in Asia.
Imagine all the indigenous peoples of North and South American and just saying, ya, they’re all the same thing. From the Cree, to the Inuits, to the Aztecs… we’ll just call them American Indians.
And the stupidity of this classification should have been obvious to anyone with the slightest understanding of European history because it would be like saying that there’s no difference between the English, French, Italian, Greek, German, Slav, Pole, or Russian when these nations had been fighting endlessly bloody conflicts because of how distinct they are from one another.
After learning hard lessons from the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade, modern Eugenics, and the holocaust, we arrived at some consensus that this categorization, known as scientific racism, was stupid and it was committed to the dustbin of reject ideologies.
But we still operate, especially thanks to the media and politicians, under this useless and divisive classification developed by European colonialists who wanted to use it as a way to elevate themselves and give themselves permission to enslave those who did not have the technology to defend themselves.
And this is made even more absurd by the fact that in a place like North America virtually everyone has mixed genetics so that even the lines on those overly broad classifications are blurred within virtually every single person whose family has been hear for a few generations.
Now I know this is hard to hear and to reprogram yourself into understanding because your schools, the media, and your political rulers have been hammering this identity into you for your whole life so take a deep breath to prepare yourself for what I’m going to say next.
Race as we understand it doesn’t exist. It’s an arbitrary invention of those who wanted to benefit from a classification that they pulled out of thin air.
Craig Venter, a ground-breaking genetic researcher who specifically looked for these distinctions in the human genome as he helped map it, concluded that “The concept of race has no genetic or scientific basis.” [i]
Race is a concept developed by racists just as capitalism is a concept invented by capitalists. If you think capitalism is bad, but you still interpret reality based on the philosophy of capitalists, you’re gonna have problems. If you think racism is bad but insist on interpreting the world through the philosophy of racists, you’re gonna have problems.
And for generations now, we’ve been trying to build a society from within this fallacious framework of understanding each other and ourselves and it’s no wonder we keep circling the wagons back to riots and department store arson.
If you’re going to see every distant descendant from an entire continent as white, black, Asian, or Native American then we will continue to be easily divided by people in power both in the media and in politics.
The solution to racism is to stop allowing ourselves to be divided by race because it doesn’t communicate anything about reality.
Now that’s not to say that there aren’t meaningful distinctions among groups of people, but race isn’t one of them. Nations, countries, cultures; these actually mean something and can and maybe should be meaningfully compared.
That’s how the ancient and medieval world looked at the landscape of humanity before the enlightenment made us so much wiser. I think we could learn a lot about their anthropology if we could abandon our programming long enough to learn about it.