I firmly believe that the reason many Slytherins were easily convinced to join Voldemort was because they were treated like shit by the rest of the houses while they were growing up. Imagine spending seven of the most important years of your life being told that you were part of the bad house and therefore bad yourself. Everyone boos your quidditch team. All the houses will hang out with everyone except you. You grow up being hated by your fellow students and many of your teachers.
Now imagine someone comes along and tells you that you’re not worthless and bad. That you’re invited to join a family where you will right the wrongs committed against you. You have the opportunity to be wanted and powerful instead of a hated outcast. Several of your former classmates are telling you how great it is. How you’re welcomed and needed. These are the kids you grew up with. The classmates who went through all the same things you did. Being a Death Eater sounds pretty good now.
I’ve been waiting for a post like this.
BLESS THIS POST
I was always bothered by the scene at the end of book 7, when the students are asked whether they want to fight the incoming Death Eater army. The Slytherin students are all like, “Uh. No?” And they’re treated like terrorists for it. In the movie, they’re even locked in the school dungeons while everyone cheers.
Did nobody stop to think and realize that if the Sytherin students had stood and fought, they would have been facing their own parents on a battlefield? Even if some of them weren’t really on board with the whole Death Eater thing, expecting them to fight was just cruel. They were children. The oldest of them were seventeen. Babies. And their own professors were asking them to shoot illegal killing spells at Mum and Dad.
Imagine you are a Slytherin and you are staying behind to defend your school and maybe restore some honor to your House. The other students are all giving you mistrustful glares. You know they’re waiting for you to start hitting them in the back with stunning spells. You consider doing it, too, because you’re already starting to regret the choice you made.
Then the battle begins, and you are up against a crowd of strangers who aren’t strangers at all. You recognize voices, muffled behind masks but still piercingly familiar. Your uncle. Your cousin. Your best friend’s big sister.
And then you see a tall man in expensive grey robes. A moment later you notice the small, curvy woman next to him, wand ready. They are guarding each others backs.
You recognize their shoes.
I always though this. And at the end of The Philosopher’s Stone? Slytherin had worked incredibly hard, and Dumbledore made sure that just enough points were given to students who had done about a million things against the school rules so that they would lose. I think that Slytherin house was victimised a lot, and I kind of hope now that the likes of Scorpius Malfoy won’t have to go through such prejudice. Perhaps, after the war, people realised that all Slytherins weren’t to blame Probably not, though.
Tumblr, do you realize you’re (accidentally) championing institutionalized racism and bigotry, right?
In the books, Rowling is careful to show that being sorted Sytherin is not inherently bad. When you’re sorted by the hat, it just means that you’re very ambitious and that your primary concern is that ambition. Snape, and to some extent, Malfoy are very human examples of how Slytherin =/= evil.
However, once you’re in Slytherin, it gets more complicated. Pure Blood obsession was weaved deeply into Slytherin culture. Slytherin himself had a falling-out with the other founders because he wanted to admit only Pure Bloods. Essentially, bigotry and racism were among the founding ideals of the house. It compounded over generations and became a legitimate cultural phenomenon.
They were like our 1%, or our wealthy white Southerners. Being rich and/or southern doesn’t mean you’re going to be racist (I and a number of friends worked on ourselves and turned out ok….)…but the odds are you’ll be at least somewhat racist since you’d be coming out of a culture that is built on racism. They’re not all joining the KKK, but they are sympathetic to cops that kill Black men. Some do still join the KKK, though…
As for Slytherins who did join Voldemort: No, they didn’t join Voldemort because “everybody hated them.” They were so sure they were better than everybody else. They and most of their graduates enjoyed high social standing, affluence, and an excellent number of successes to bolster their eager egos. It even says that the Slytherins had won every house cup and every quidditch final for years before book one.
They joined Voldemort because racism was built into the Slytherin culture…so even those ambitious kids who didn’t start out racist were taken in by a racist culture, and gradually assimilated. That is sad, for sure, but bullying was not a reason for most powerful Slytherins (except Snape). They were leaning to become the bullies. They were learning racism. Voldemort simply used the racism that was already there, and pushed them further to serve his own powerlust.
Take everything you guys just wrote, and replace “Slytherin” with “Wealthy White Southerner” and “Voldemort/Death Eaters" with "KKK”. Take the implied “Everybody else” and put in “Northerners, Liberals, and Minorities” (Women, Blacks, Gays, etc). You end up with the Southern Confederate post-civil-war narrative that romanticized, justified, and masked horrible racist atrocities. The Northerners bullied the grand, old, proud, superior Southerners, and now they had to ban together to save themselves from Black people. That narrative is not okay.
Harry Potter’s race dynamics are an allegory for all of that, guys. Now Rowling may not have been most inspired by KKK. There are tons of racism-fueled atrocities she could have pulled from in European history. Today, atrocities are still happening. Here.
Please be careful how much you champion a symbol of institutionalized racism and bigotry. Individuals within an institution like that may be redeemable but the institution itself is a problem.