A new paper in the Journal of Applied Psychology "claims reading the 'Harry Potter' series significantly improved young peoples' perception of stigmatized groups like immigrants, homosexuals or refugees."
The study essentially found that young people who had an emotional attachment with the character of Harry Potter were less likely to be prejudiced against minority groups.
When one thinks about it, this makes a lot of sense. "Harry Potter," as a series, is extremely allegorical.
Firstly, let's think about the word "Mudblood," which was used to describe Muggle-born witches or wizards in the series. For those unfamiliar with the world of "Harry Potter," Muggles are regular, non-magical, people. In the books, Mudblood is an extremely derogatory term.
It's much like many of the disgusting words one might encounter in the real world, often used to describe various ethnic and minority groups.
Whenever the term Mudblood is used in the book, the main characters often show great disdain for those employing the term. This could teach children that using hate words is vile, and simply wrong.
There are also obvious parallels between Nazism and some of the themes in "Harry Potter." Nazis often utilized a German term, "Mischling," to describe Germans with half-Jewish/half-Aryan ancestry.
Roughly translated, Mischling means half-breed, or half-blood. Likewise, half-blood is also somewhat of an insult in Harry Potter, thrown at witches or wizards who are half-Muggle.
Furthermore, the Nazis used a variety of sinister and abhorrent methods to determine who could be considered a Jew. They often defined Judaism based on bloodlines.
Basically, if an individual had 3 or 4 Jewish grandparents, they were considered a Jew. If they only had one or two, they were designated as "Mischling." This was a form of legalized discrimination, which led to the deaths of millions of people.
Relatedly, in Harry Potter, when the Ministry of Magic (the governing body for magical people) becomes hijacked by extremists, they begin a practice known as Blood Status, or Purity of Blood.
In essence, a witch or wizard was considered to have pure-blood if they did not have any Muggles in their family tree. This practice is extremely similar to the methods employed by the Nazi's in their classification of Jewishness.
On this topic, one of the heroes of the series, Albus Dumbledore, famously chastises the Minister of Magic (basically the president or prime minister of the magical world) for giving these sorts of discriminatory values any credence:
You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognize that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be!
This quote resembles a famous statement made by none other than Martin Luther King, Jr. during his historic "I Have A Dream" speech:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
Likewise, as the Pacific Standard notes in relation to the study:
Bigotry, the researchers note, is a continuing theme in the series of phenomenally popular young-adult novels. Voldemort, who represents pure evil, makes arguments that have 'rather obvious' parallels with Nazism, they write, noting that he believes all power should reside in 'pure-blood' witches and wizards, as opposed to those born of one magical parent and one non-magical 'Muggle.' In addition, Harry and his friends interact with various sub-human species such as elves and goblins, who regularly complain about being forced into subservient roles, not unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. Harry 'tries to understand them and appreciate their difficulties,' the researchers write.
Thus, while some people might view Harry Potter as mindless fiction, it is apparent that the magic within the book reaches far beyond the pages. Or as the Pacific Standard puts it:
Perhaps arguments for open-mindedness are most effectively delivered underneath an invisibility cloak.