Atoning After the War

By Monique Jones

Summary: Draco Malfoy is one of the prime examples in the “Harry Potter” series of how racism can twist a young mind in the worst of ways. But, one thing that I feel was slightly alluded to in the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but never actually said outright, is how the events of the War have changed Draco and expanded his worldview, hopefully for the better. In my essay, I intend to show how post-War Draco could possibly come to terms with his racist past and overcome it. I use a real-life example to illustrate this–the life of Elwin Wilson, who grew up hating African-Americans, but later came to grips with his thoughts and sought out forgiveness.

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On the Draco-centric section of my site, I use a quote from Tom Felton’s music site, Feltbeats.com, which explained in a few short sentences what I tried to convey in a few clumsy paragraphs. Draco Malfoy may be the school bully, but, to quote the website, “his villainy is not by choice, but rather, it is thrust upon him.” Now this sentence explains his bungled mission to kill Dumbledore, but it also explains other aspects of his character and his beliefs. That is to say, his “villainy” embedded in his beliefs aren’t by choice, but rather, they were taught to him by his parents, who were taught by their parents, and so on. The same formula for racism exists in both this world and the real one we live in. People aren’t born as racists; they are made.

What does this mean for Draco in the years after Voldemort’s demise? Well, J.K. Rowling herself said that, with the exception of Voldemort, every character had a chance at redemption. So this can only mean that Draco’s included. What if he acted on his chance at redemption (which, in my heart of hearts, I believe he did after the books ended)? How would the main trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione (Hermione in particular) react? Furthermore, how would fans react? Enter the discussion about how to confront prejudice and (in Draco’s case) seek forgiveness.

Prejudice, in a nutshell, is ignorance against other cultures and other ways of life. It’s also the outward showing of insecurity around said cultures/ways of life. Anything or anyone that is beyond a person’s understanding tends to get marginalized into stereotypical groups. Ignorance is essentially all Draco and his family are guilty of. Once you think of prejudice in that form, it seems a lot easier to overcome.

Hopefully, Voldemort’s war would have taught Draco and his parents valuable lessons about people and how to treat them. At the very least, the war, culminating with half-blood Harry Potter vanquishing Voldemort, should’ve taught them that everyone is equal and blood has nothing to do with the worth of a person. But along with that, each of them would still have to go through a mental journey in order to fully recognize the extent of ignorance they were allowing themselves to be in. (Hopefully, they would’ve realized that Voldemort – the person they were following to bring about pureblooded supremacy – was a half-blood himself.)

If Draco was to go through such a metamorphosis and feel like he should apologize to Harry, Ron, and especially Hermione, would they accept his apology? Let’s look at a real life example, Elwin Wilson.

Elwin Wilson is a white man in his early seventies who was heavily racist in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. He did horrible, despicable things to black people – throwing cantaloupes at them, beating them up, and stopping a dime store lunch-counter protest and inflicting harm on the group of students leading the protest (one of those being Congressman Jon Lewis).

According to Wilson, the baggage of his actions got heavier and heavier until one day, Wilson’s friend asked Wilson where he would go if he were to die that very moment. Wilson said, “To hell.”

So, he started apologizing to people, one of those people being Lewis. He made his way to Lewis’ Washington, D.C. office, and told him he was sorry. And even though some didn’t accept his apologies as legitimate, Lewis did. “He was very, very sincere, and I think it takes a lot of raw courage to be willing to come forward the way he did,” said Lewis. “I think it will lead to a great deal of healing.”

This real-life example is to show that it’s not impossible to atone for past transgressions. Apologizing and finding forgiveness doesn’t mean that the pain will be forgotten, however, in Hermione’s case, the pain of being called a derogatory name for four years might be extreme, but at least some healing would have begun and the rift that had separated Harry, Hermione, and Ron from Draco might start to close. To ask for forgiveness is a brave thing, but to be able to forgive is an even braver thing to do, and I feel that if the trio can conquer a villain like Voldemort, they would have no problems conquering their feelings about Draco.