On Tuesday, Toronto-based Anoosha Syed revealed via Twitter how she’d received a horrific backlash after she shared her magical illustration of Hermione, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley to her Tumblr page last month.
Critics unjustifiably accused Syed of “black tarring” the character and called her a “fucking dumbass liberal.” They also blasted her for drawing Potter with a darker skin tone.
The 23-year-old illustrator, however, had two things to say to her detractors.
She wrote, “hermione and harry’s race is never stated in the books,” before adding, “i’ll draw whatever i want thanks.”
Syed drew the characters as she did “because that’s how I imagined them,” she told HuffPost via email. “As I’m a minority myself it’s always nice to see yourself represented in the books you read.”
And while she expected “one or two people” to oppose her interpretation, she said that “seeing those comments was a nasty shock.”
“It was horrifying to see how racist people could be,” Syed said. “There were also some comments that were trying to be polite, telling me Hermione couldn’t be black because of the book covers, or Emma Watson, or any other detail they pulled from the books but their point is the same; if a character’s race is not stated they are by default white.”
Syed received widespread praise for her takedown of the trolls.
The incident does not yet appear to have to come to the attention of Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling, but she’d be likely to make the same points.
After all, black actresses have been cast as Hermione in the London stage production of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” for the past two years.
Rowling herself also made it crystal clear in 2015 that the character’s race is “never specified” in the books.
This article has been updated with comment from the illustrator.