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Claiming Whiteness

I want to talk about a Thing here relating to whiteness and how people with light skin claim it for themselves.

Whiteness isn’t a race. There is no “white people” in the way that there are Irish people or Italian people or Egyptian people or Nigerian people. Whiteness is a club you get invited to (or not invited to) based on the way you look and the way you speak.

Most of us get that invitation before we’re old enough to understand what it means, like an owl from Hogwarts telling us we’re special, that we’re better than everyone else. That we have Power.

So we accept that invitation because hey why not, clubs are cool, we’ve been taught that it’s better to be cool than not. So we go to Hogwarts and learn about magic and slowly we grow up without ever realizing that this magical school is built on top of bodies.

That school becomes our identity. We begin to define ourselves, quietly, in the back of our minds, by the sorting of houses, by the sending of owls, by Quidditch and potions and horcruxes.

Some people at Hogwarts get funneled into social groups that push them toward their darkest impulses, to the cruelest parts of their privilege. They’re taught that they’re here because they DESERVE to be. But not everyone gets sorted into Slytherin.

Some people get sorted into Gryffindor; to define themselves in opposition to the REAL racists at Hogwarts. A Gryffindor would NEVER be racist, that’s why they’re in Gryffindor. They’re there because it’s their duty to protect people. To protect the other students.

And some people get sorted into Ravenclaw, they get taught that none of this “race stuff” matters, it’s not rational anyway, we’re all here to learn. They know that Hogwarts is built on top of bodies but it’s worth it because the books are so interesting.

And then there’s Hufflepuff. Everybody at Hogwarts loves Hufflepuff, because they don’t engage with all the fighting between Gryffindor and Slytherin, they just want to make sure that everyone gets along and has a good time.

You might have noticed that none of these houses is actually good. They’re all ignoring the fact that, say it with me:

HOGWARTS IS BUILT ON TOP OF BODIES.

But oh no! What am I supposed to do? I’m a wizard, I go to school at Hogwarts, surely we can’t all be bad, at least I’m not Slytherin!

Well here’s the thing. You accepted the invitation when you were very little.

No one can fault you for being raised by wizards or for accepting the invitation before you knew what it meant.

But now that you’re enrolled, and you know what Hogwarts is built on? You don’t have to keep going back there. You could break your wand, drop out, go do something else with your life, work to dismantle the school from its rafters to its foundation.

But you’re still going back there, riding the Hogwarts Express, attending a school that’s built on top of bodies. Claiming the title of wizard for yourself.

Psst. I have a secret to tell you.

Wizards are white people. Hogwarts is whiteness. And you can drop out of the latter, stop being the former.

But how easy is it, really, to stop using the magic they taught you? Is it easy to never make another potion, or send another owl? Are you quietly frustrated that muggles don’t know how to do all that? Do you still call them muggles?

Then you’re still a wizard. You’re still unpacking and dismantling the things Hogwarts taught you. Still finding parts of yourself that you got from the school that’s built on top of bodies.

And if you hear someone say “white people are or do x” and you think “we’ll not all whites people do that, I don’t”—congratulations, you’re still enrolled at Hogwarts. And—this is important—Hogwarts isn’t real.

But whiteness is. And you don’t have to keep going to it. Because it’s built on top of bodies.

Oh dang I meant to end with this: you don’t have to keep going to Hogwarts, but you DO need to actively dismantle the things they gave you—or else use them to dismantle the school itself.