In the fourth part of Jingo, Vimes takes his job more seriously than he has before. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For extensive talk of racism, xenophobia, and hate crimes/terrorism.
Holy shit, this is just… so much more intense than I’m used to from Pratchett? For the most part, though, it’s also really fucking good, a chilling demonstration of how xenophobia infects communities and what the end result of that mindset often is.
Look, I could not have predicted with precision that we’d all be reading Jingo right as the United States and the UK deal with horrifically racist contingents of their own citizenry and government. I mean, I could have told you that just based on the odds, both our countries were probably fucking up royally anyway, but the eerie coincidences are a bit much. (Which dispels the whole notion that racism and xenophobia are just a thing of the past. Sorry, but that’s not the case.) Note that at this point in Jingo, THERE ISN’T AN ACTUAL WAR. No war has been declared! And yet, the social climate within Ankh-Morpork has inspired someone to attack the Goriffs because they’re Klatchian. That’s all it took. Some politicians and aristocrats had to bemoan the presence of “foreigners,” they had to declare the Klatchian backwards and unworthy of what Ankh-Morpork had to provide, and then someone tried to murder a family.
It’s horrifying, and Vimes knows it. There’s this weird personalization that goes on here, though I can surmise why Pratchett has Vimes only “vaguely” recognize the Goriff family. He writes:
They were… faces. They were usually at the end of some arms holding a portion of curry or a kebab.
Now, given that Pratchett hasn’t strayed from portraying Vimes as flawed, I can hazard a guess as to why this line exists: Vimes has never really thought about Klatchian people living in Ankh-Morpork except in the context of them serving food. For a lot of white people, that’s the standard. That might very well be the only time they see non-white folks, and thus, that’s their only understanding. Beyond that, Vimes never really got to know them. Why is that? Why does he know other restaurant owners personally, yet he can’t name any of the people who sell him curry or kebabs? He’s not cruel, and yes, Vimes isn’t exactly the friendliest person ever. But I believe this line works to describe a very subtle form of bias that exists that most people don’t ever question. And then, Vimes sees the oil on the floor and the broken window, and these people are suddenly not just people who serve him food: they’re humans who’ve just been terrorized because of the color of their skin, because of the clothing they choose to wear.
And it changes Vimes.
Vimes has not really been one to care about the correct language to use when referring to a person, and we’ve definitely seen him engage in casual discrimination or prejudice over the course of his appearances in the Discworld. I can’t deny, then, that it is a huge fucking deal that he hears Colon use a racial slur (one I’ll not repeat here, as it’s still in use and really awful) and then orders him to stop using it. Colon’s reply is one of the best bits of this whole section, too:
“And I don’t mind what people call me, neither.”
If you been around my sites for a while, you’ve seen this literal argument unfold. “Well, I wouldn’t mind if someone called me a ‘cracker.’ It doesn’t hurt me.” Which is the whole point! In Colon’s mind, that slur is just like name calling, like if you referred to someone as a dweeb or a goober or a butthead or any other childish but funny terms. All those words lack the societal weight and historical violence of slurs, but he can’t see that. Instead, how does he think of it? He’s being censored. Vimes is being unreasonable and silly. He can’t even conceive of how terrible that might make someone feel, or how that kind of language contributes to an environment where the Other – in this case, Klatchians – can be demonized.
Prince Khufurah and Ahmed
Pratchett then takes it a step further with one of the funnier scenes thus far, but I should note that he’s still poking holes in racism along the way. Since Vimes lacks the skill needed for most (if not all) diplomacy, he speaks with the Klatchian with typical Vimes honesty. In doing so, Pratchett exposes another way in which this kind of prejudice can sneak into behavior: condescension and lying. Everyone pretends to not understand the other racial slur thrown at the two Klatchians because they assume that the Klatchians are too stupid to ever understand such things. There’s a backhanded nature to the way the Prince and Ahmed are treated here, since everyone assumes they’re so backward and “foreign” that Khufurah ends up playing up to the stereotypes just for a laugh. WHICH I DEEPLY UNDERSTAND AND SUPPORT, YOU HAVE NO IDEA. When I first started going to science fiction and fantasy conventions, I was so flabbergasted by people coming up to me to either say super racist things or treat me like a Racism Encyclopedia that I came up with a ridiculous game I’d play just to cope with it. I started calling benign and innocuous things “racist” and would tell people to go research it, and then, without fail, they’d come back later and would be stumped because they’d asked all their friends and no one knew what they were talking about.
I haven’t done it in a while. Maybe I should bring it back.
Mark Links Stuff
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