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It’s already been established that the issue of blood purity in Harry Potter is an allegory for racism, but I think JK Rowling’s portrayal of Squibs is the most telling of all.
In Harry Potter a Squib is a non-magical child born to magical parents, and good ol’ JK doesn’t treat them very well at all. Being a Squib is the worst thing you can be in the wizarding world, this is an issue that Purebloods and Half-bloods can both seem to agree on. Even Muggleborn Hermione, who campaigned for House Elf rights (S.P.E.W. forever!) never gave a thought to the plight of Squibs.
The two Squibs we’re introduced to in the books are Argus Filch the caretaker at Hogwarts, and Arabella Figg the old lady that Dumbledore charged with keeping an eye on Harry as he grew up. Now they have quite a few things in common, the most obvious being they literally have the same initials, but they also both have a strong attachment to their cats, they’re both on the older side, both unmarried and childless, and they both work for Dumbledore.
Perhaps it shouldn’t matter that they’re both unmarried and childless given that plenty of other characters are also presumably unmarried and without children, but those characters are not the sole representation for their blood status. Having the only two Squib characters both in such similar situations with no comment or condemnation, well it really speaks volumes.
The word Squib is even used as a slur in the Harry Potter universe, as evidenced when Tom Riddle’s grandfather Marvolo Gaunt calls his own daughter a Squib in a very derogatory manner, despite the fact that she is, in fact, a witch. When Neville Longbottom was believed to be a Squib as a child his great-uncle Algie did various things in order to ‘force’ some magic out of him, including pushing him off of a pier causing him to nearly drown, he then hung him from a window where he accidentally dropped him, Neville bounced safely away, proving he did, in fact, have magic. This extreme measure was seen as totally fine and normal because being a Squib was seen as the worst possible thing you could be and it would bring shame to the family to have one.
Now you might be wondering why we should even care, clearly these are fictional people in a fictional world. But the message seems to be that prejudice is only wrong against some people, which is never a good message to find in a children’s story. And it only mirrors JK Rowling’s problem with representation across the board, a problem that she hasn’t addressed except to seemingly double down on the problematic issues.
She received criticism for her decision to reveal Albus Dumbledore as gay, despite never acknowledging this in the books at all (FYI this doesn’t count as representation), and then it was revealed that young Albus, played by Jude Law in the upcoming Fantastic Beasts 2, won’t be explicitly gay either (maybe? There seems to be some conflicting information on this). The other big criticism being JK’s handling of Asian characters, so of course, she decides to reveal that Voldemort’s snake Nagini was actually an Asian woman cursed to be stuck in the form of a snake and then becoming the pet of a megalomaniacal white man. Smart move JK. Smart move.
So it seems like the portrayal of Squibs is about on par with all the other kinds of representation that JK Rowling got all wrong.
Now don’t get me wrong, I still adore the wonderful world of Harry Potter, (my impressive collection of Harry Potter themed stuff attests to this), but no one can accuse these books of being perfect. And it certainly doesn’t negate the poor way JK has handled the criticism (an apology would be a good way to start, no one expects you to be perfect either Joanne, just admit you made a mistake).
So just remember to give the Squibs in your life a little extra love from now on, they need it.