Paula Deen and Why So Many Southern Racists Don't Believe They're Actually Racists

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Paula Deen and Why So Many Southern Racists Don't Believe They're Actually Racists

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | June 26, 2013 | Comments ()


Paula Deen is a racist, and like a lot of racists in the South, she honestly doesn't believe she is a racist. In a Today show interview this morning with Matt Lauer, Paula Deen insists that she believes "all of God's creatures should be treated equally" and that she "wasn't raised" a racist. I believe she believes that, though it is obvious that she's lying when she says that the only time she's ever used the N-word was when a black man held her up at gunpoint.

"It's just not a part of who we are," Paula Deen asserts, which is also a clear lie, and rather than apologize for who she is and make an effort to change, Deen insists that she has never "in her 66 years" used that word but once, and that she's offended by others' use of it. Anyone who grew up in the South knows this to be a lie, and while many of the people who know she is lying are winking right along with her tear-streaked face, the rest of us know.

Unless you were raised by well educated people, or carpetbaggers, or the rare Southern hippie, racism was something of a default mode in the South, so casual and ingrained that most of us didn't even realize that what we were saying was racist. I don't know what kids North of the Mason Dixon line called each other on the playground in the 80s and 90s, but in the small-town South, kids called each other "ni**er" and "fa**ot" as easy and as casually as kids might call each other "jerks" or "dum-dum heads." You didn't have cooties where I grew up, you had "ni**er" cooties," and the only names we took any real offense to were variations of "ni**er lover," the lowest of all insults, reserved for kids who insisted they were safe when clearly the ball reached first base before they did.

The notion that my kids could say those words -- words my six year old has never even heard, and hopefully will not hear until he's studying the the Civil War and the Civil Rights era in high school -- seems appalling and repulsive to me, but that was not so in the schools I attended in the South. I don't remember ever hearing a teacher ask a student not to use those words, and there's no way they could've not heard them. But then, what were teachers going to do? Raise the issue with the parents, who taught the kids those words, who woud dismiss it? We knew the "N-word" in the South; it was the "R-word" that we'd never heard before: Racism.

I lived in Little Rock for two years during the 1980s, during the desegregation of schools. I attended an elementary school close by (I was one of two white kids in my class), while my brother was bussed 45 minutes away to help even out the numbers in another district. My mother, as I recall, burst into the principal's office and began raising hell with the principal, insisting that she didn't want her 6 year old riding the bus with a "bunch of "n******s." Likewise, my father -- a gay man in the South, for God's sake -- was as racist as anyone, often joking that Lincoln was America's worst president because he had freed the slaves.

These were the people that raised me, that raised people like Paula Deen. What hope did we have?

There's a popular Chris Rock stand-up bit where Rock makes the distinction between black people and "ni**ers," a revelatory and controversial bit at the time. I can assure you, however, that white people in the small-town South had been making that distinction for years, and in the rare instance in which a white person was called on their racism for saying the N-word, they'd often fall back on that argument: "I'm not a racist. A n****er is not necessarily a black person. It's a lazy attitude that can apply to anyone." I grew up on a street where at least 60 percent of the residents were drug addicts and/or on welfare, and yet I never heard anyone call any of the other white people on that street the N-word. It's why I always hated that Chris Rock bit; it reinforced that argument. People in the South all over will now cite the bit as evidence that they're not racist. "See? A black man agrees with us!"

It took me a lot of years to understand that the N-word was charged, that there was subtext and history to that word, and it's no wonder. Where were we going to learn otherwise? Teachers, who ignored its usage? Parents, who had passed the word and the culture of racism onto their children? Our peers and classmates, who made no distinction between that word and "lazy asshole." Black people in the community, who literally lived on the other side of the tracks?

I was lucky. I was saved by television. I spent more hours in front of my television than with my parents, or the kids on my street, and after a while, the messages from shows like "The Cosby Show," or from those "The More You Know" campaigns on NBC, began to seep through (people probably don't realize how effective those campaigns can be to a 9 or 10 year old whose biggest source of parental guidance comes from after-school specials). The messages began to take hold. I finally began to understand that the things that my parents felt, that the kids in my classes were saying, wasn't OK. That they were more than wrong; they were vile.

By the time I'd reached high school, I actually began to voice my complaints, although doing so had one of two effects. 1) I was either alienated by others, or 2) my friends would intentionally use the N-word because they knew it'd made me cringe. I remember how much they loved getting a rise out of me. The father of my high-school sweetheart used to utter the word frequently around me, and when I'd turn beet red with anger, he'd laugh in the same way you'd laugh at someone who'd react if you used cringeworthy words like "moist" or "panties."

"It's just a word," he'd say, before referring me once again to the imaginary black friend he insisted he had, though he'd certainly never been inside his house.

At a certain point, there's nothing you can do to convince people like Paula Deen, others of her generation, or even some of those of my own generation, that they are not racist. They don't believe they are. They honestly think that having a casual acquaintance who is black absolves them. I hope to hell it's not this way anymore in the South, but I'm guessing that it is still more like that than not in the small town I grew up in.

Some people fight it. Some people escape. I voiced my objections as long as I could, and then I left, which is either an act of sanity or of cowardice. I maintained a loose relationship with my family for a few years until I had a kid of my own. I haven't spoken now to anyone in my family for six years, and they honestly don't understand why. They think it's because "the college boy thinks he's to good for us" or because I finally got fed up with the proselytizing, which I'd never taken issue with. I feel guilty about it; I feel terrible that I'm depriving my mother of her grandchildren. But I don't know how to explain to them that I don't want my kids exposed to that culture of racism (and homophobia and religious intolerance). That no matter how deep your faith, no matter how generous, kind, well-mannered and decent hearted you are, you can't really be a good person if you are defending your use of the N-word, of if you believe that gays belong in hell. I can separate the good from the bad, but I won't ask that of my children. And it does no good for me to try to convince my family of this. How do you argue with a racist about their racism when they honestly don't believe they are racist? It's a futile argument, the very one that the public is having with Paula Deen.

Paula Deen will continue to make the argument of denial, and she may continue to insist that she believes everyone should be treated the same, claiming it's the way she was raised. She will believe it so deeply that both she -- and the hundreds of thousands of her supporters -- will feel crucified by those who pull their support. Paula Deen is a racist, but because of the way she was raised, she may never realize it. So how can you deliver an honest apology when you don't even understand when you've done something wrong?

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Rita Arens

    This: I voiced my objections as long as I could, and then I left, which is either an act of sanity or of cowardice.

    I understand completely this feeling of ambivalence toward fleeing small towns with a lot of inborn intolerance but can't see it for what it is.

  • Ringo Juna

    Painting the entire South with the same brush is disingenuous and dishonest, not to mention tired and played out. Almost all articles like this act as though only those of us who live below the Mason-Dixon have ever uttered "n----r", or "f----t", and that racism only exists down here. I've met just as many racists in Newark and Chicago as i've ever met in my 37 years of life in Alabama.

  • TheseRJustMyThoughts

    This was excellent. This author shares my thoughts on this subject so well. I appreciate what she has to say here. I have not been surprised by the people who support her. It is easy to see that their racism has been so internalized that they cannot recognize it as such. Just as the author says.

  • Lucy

    Thank you, Dustin. Thank you for writing this from you much needed perspective.

  • Joel

    How does the author of this piece know what is in Paula Deen's heart and soul? Just because he was raised by horrible racist parents doesn't mean all people raised in the south suffered the same fate. I know I did not.

  • JohnnyL53 opposed to northern racists? Lots of self righteous, hypocritical, on a high horse northerners chiming in with comments here. Of course it doesn't let the south off the hook but trying to pretend that things are really any better north of the Mason-Dixon line is a fantasy. You guys just hide it a little better.

  • Not to go all Clintonian "meaning-of-'IS'-is" on you, but.... how are we defining "racist" in this discussion?

    If by racist you mean someone who consciously holds one group of people to be fundamentally inferior to another group - physically, mentally, morally, etc. - and less entitled to equality and justice under the law... then that's a pretty easy crime to spot and hold people accountable for.

    IF, on the other hand, you take racist to mean pretty much ANYONE who wasn't raised by wolves at the South Pole, and has therefore been subject to a LIFETIME of racially charged messages from every direction and has grown up with the understanding that race IS an issue, whether or not it should be.... then the mud gets a little heavier in your slinging hand.

    I don't say this to defend Paula Deen's words or actions; from what I've read, they're pretty appalling, and she SHOULD be shamed and ashamed. Nor am I making/buying excuses for anyone along the lines of "that's just how they were raised." Everybody was raised SOMEWHERE, and NONE of those somewheres was Utopian Care Bear After-School-Special Country. If all of us held ourselves to the standards we were raised with, we'd still be throwing witches in ponds to see which ones float.

    Still, it seems like a lot of potentially productive conversations about race and racism never happen, because no well-intentioned person wants to admit that they SEE race: that they think about it, consider it, and make snap judgments/generalizations that the conscious, DELIBERATE part of their brain is there to reject.

    So again, I come back to this: these southern-racists-who-don't-think-they're-racist... are they all in the "non-whites are inferior, FULL STOP" camp, or are some of them just sensing difference and stopping there, rather than thinking it through?

  • KuntaKinte
  • Paperclips

    Here's a quote from a Southern man who in a 2004 documentary shares how being involved in the Paperclip project changed his views on racial slurs. It also helped me understand how Deen and her defenders may not see themselves as racist or bad people for using racial slurs. This man admits his father's and his own former use of racial slurs. He won't condemn his father, but he has decided to not raise his children the same way:

    "They're learning from what we're teaching and they're teaching others, and that's the whole point of this project: to teach their children, and their grandchildren and their great grandchildren. Growing up in the South, growing up in rural Tennessee as I have, I've been exposed to a lot of racial remarks. You know my dad is the greatest man ever -- and I have no doubt of that, but he has a bias, and he can make racial slurs, and it's not anything against him. You know in college I had African-American roommate, and loved him like a brother and still do, but it was nothing to me, to - even sometimes in his presence, to say racial slurs... and uh, ... and now I hope that -- that it didn't.... I guess ... I hope it didn't hurt him. ... Now with this project I see things like that. It makes me, you know, very aware that, with two small sons, that I don't say it. Cause I don't want them to grow up and said 'my father said this'... because that would -- [close to tears] --- that would be the worst thing they could say."

  • HaileyT

    Thank you for the laugh... I've never heard of "n**** cooties" and I've lived deep in the south my entire life. Y'all cracked me up!

  • The Pink Hulk

    Because racism belongs solely to the South...


  • Angyl Ricardi

    Paula Deen is a DEMOCRAT. she's a racist southern democrat. She voted for obama, campaigned for him, had michelle on her show and wouldn't allow sarah palin on but she's STILL a racist like so many other democrats. The KKK was started by the democrat party. Why do so many folks out there not know this?

  • Three_nineteen

    1) Dustin didn't say that Deen isn't a racist southern Democrat. Nobody has said that there are no racist Democrats.

    2) In 1960, most of the Southern states were solidly Democratic, voting in John F. Kennedy as President. In July 1964, Democrats backed the passage of the Civil Rights Act (which ended segregation) and President Johnson signed it. In the 1964 presidential election, the southern states who voted for Kennedy all reversed and voted Republican, and have voted solidly Republican ever since. Strom Thurmond, who was a Democrat in January 1964, switched to the Republican party in September 1964. I wonder why all that happened?

    3) None of this has anything to do with the think piece Dustin wrote.

  • Brandon Satterwhite

    What?! No. No, absolutely not. Do not believe that this is representative of the entire South. I don't know what the poor part of Little Rock where this person grew up was like, but this was NOT my experience in the middle class (and lower middle class, at that, not the rich part of town) suburbs of Birmingham, AL in the 1980s.

    And I'm a little confused about his narrative because he says that he "lived in Little Rock for two years during the 1980s, during the desegregation of schools." He does not say he moved after that, so I'm not clear on what that 2 year reference is about. Also, I'm sure there was busing going on in the 80s, but to be clear, the public schools in Little Rock and throughout the South were desegregated in the 1950s and 1960s. I started elementary school in Birmingham in 1980, and I ALWAYS had black classmates, and for all I could tell, it had always been that way. It did not seem controversial, and I was not aware of any ongoing "desegregation" process.

    The N-word was definitely not a common word among my peers. In fact I would have been shocked to have heard it in school. About half our teachers were black, and the other black students would not have stood for that word to be used either. And if this person was one of two white students in his class, as he claims?? How he survived elementary school using that kind of language is beyond me.

  • Joseph Howe

    You're right, all white people are racist.

  • ,

    Let me interrupt the lovefest for a few moments and make a couple Devil's advocate observations:

    1. This is interesting coming from someone whose site has "Bitches be crazy" flashing a few posts below this one.

    2. What's the statute of limitations on the high crime of having said "n****r" once or twice in your ignorant life, and how many acts of contrition and penance do you have to perform before your summary execution?

    Thought police are out in full force this week. The city of Elgin, I'll., wants to combat its gang problem by suing the gang, and also making it illegal to flash gang hand signals or wear hats with the gang's letter "D" on them. I like to think this absurd effort will get the laughing-at it deserves and get instantly thrown out of court on First Amendment grounds, but I fear far too many people will read about that and think, "What a great idea!" In the current atmosphere, you can't say for sure.

    Someday, maybe making the sign of the cross or clasping hands in prayer will be illegal in public spaces. You don't think so? Think the slippery slope is a fallacy? Think you have rights? Ask increasingly ostracized cigarette smokers about that.

  • alwaysanswerb

    You know "bitches be crazy" is precisely what Leslie Knope is saying in that capture, right?

  • Three_nineteen

    If Deen actually ends up in prison for the things she said, I'll start to consider your arguments. She didn't even get fired, her contract is up this month and they aren't renewing it.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't you a libertarian? Shouldn't you be celebrating the fact that the Food Network can employ or not employ whoever they want; that the free market is working as intended?

    And Deen's "execution" as you call it will almost certainly consist of making (more) millions when she writes her book and all the people who aren't racist buy it in solidarity with that poor, wronged woman who cried on the Today Show.

  • ,

    She got fired by WalMart and Target and some other upstanding corporate citizens who, I'm sure, always always do right by their employees and suppliers and are truly, deeply offended by Paula's attitude and not simply scurrying to cover their economic asses.

    But that's their bidness, and it's between them and her (says the Libertarian).

    My concern isn't so much for Paula, though I'm kind of puzzled why we've chosen to make an example/martyr of her while so many other miscreants skate. If she's been smart, she has plenty of fall-back cushion. What dismays me somewhat is that the knee jerk reactions of a number of upright (I'm sure) corporate citizens will cost the jobs of dozens or scores of people employed in the Paula Deen Empire, and that we don't seem able to find some kind of middle ground between ignoring a witch and burning her at the stake. In another comment on this thread, I suggest a return to the stockade, where she could be humiliated and contrite and get sunburnt for a couple days, so that we could all make our point without destroying a business that employs who knows how many people. Or maybe a good flogging with a cat-o-nine-tails.

    TK's argument elsewhere here is that it's Paula's fault, so he doesn't have to feel bad about it. I'd say that's cold comfort to the people who are going to be out of work because the fine upstanding corporate citizens at WalMart et al, who always treat their employees with dignity and generosity, cut and run at the first sign of controversy.

  • Three_nineteen

    Innocent people lose their jobs all the time for all kinds of reasons. If Deen had, say, been arrested for murder, then Walmart and Target would have fired her and those people would lose their jobs. If Deen's show wasn't renewed and Target and Walmart dropped her because she said "fuck" on live TV, then they still would lose their jobs. In none of those situations would it be their fault, but the end result is the same. I really don't see how this situation is any different. Something happens to the host of a TV show, whether the host deserves it or not, and people lose their jobs.

  • Dave

    What a shit article. Paula Deen is a racist, I have no proof, but take my word for it. She's a racist and doesn't know it.

    Get some proof to back up your argument.

  • Dragonchild

    It's not ignorance; it's denial. They know the term "racist" is intended to be derogatory and deh South is second to none at shutting down their brains when confronted with any sort of forced introspection. It's their modus operandi. Country committed atrocities? You just hate America. Last in education? It's because of the immigrants; our kids are smrt. Evolution? No, the Bible is the literal truth. My sister got an abortion? She's a special case; she's not like all those other whores. You think I'm racist? Well, bless your heart. I was raised proper. Leaving isn't cowardice; you can't reason with brick walls.

    In an extreme case, a southern acquaintance of mine was sexually abused as a child. The parents knew about it and let it go on for NINE FUCKING YEARS rather than admit there was even a problem. THAT'S how far they're willing to go to avoid confronting any sort of ugly truth. All other considerations -- even the very integrity of family -- are a very distant second to simply not having conversations about their flaws. The problem is that people who refuse to admit they're flawed are incapable of improving. As a result the entire place ironically suffers from "big fish in small pond" effect. Almost every single person I've met down there is polite, but there's a chronic absence of self-evaluation.

    No, Mr. Rowles, naivete is NOT the issue here. Paula Deen is incapable of seeing herself as racist not because she doesn't understand what racism is, but because she was raised to shut her mind down rather than admit any sort of problem. The entire goddamned South is one giant game of appearances.

  • jayinmass

    You name me a person that at some point in their lives didn't make a off color remark or use a term that they shouldn't have and I'll tell you that person is a liar. Use of a word, a term, does not make one racist and actions make a person racist.

    Paula Dean simply was honest and she's being destroyed for it. Our PC culture one that pajiba regularly makes fun of mind you, if ruining our culture. I'm not in favor of people dropping the "N" word or any other racial or sexual slur at any moment but language is language. Would we deem Samuel Clements a full blown racists for use of the "n" word in Tom Sawyer. Some might but many wouldn't. Would haper lee be consisdered a racist because of use of the "n" word over and over in To kill a mockingbird. And yes i know that's in literature, but all people have used a term their not proud of and say that you haven't is a full blown lie.

    We should not be destroying Paula Dean for being honest. We should be saying thank you for being honest and using her admission as a lesson to our kids going forward that words can hurt even but are words, actions speak louder.

  • Maguita NYC

    I agree with what Christopher stated above.

    I'd like to also add that Tom Sawyer was written in 1876; Paula Deen has uttered the N* word in 2013.

    A lot of things were acceptable back in 1876 that are so absolutely not in 2013. We've evolved as a specie, we strive for acceptance and more than ever embrace diversity. Allowance for devolution simply to accommodate intentional ignorance is no longer acceptable, especially in this age of easy access to information.

  • You seem to hate context, so I'll break this down for you 'A is for Apple' style.

    First of all, "language is language." What the pissing fuck is that supposed to mean? That there exists words that were intentionally disgusting and conceived to be foul, but because they are words they are now protected canon? Is that it? That because it exists we shouldn't do anything about it and therefore shouldn't call people out on being racist dickbags?

    And the only two examples of 'acceptable' racists you could offer up were fictional characters. I really shouldn't have to say this, as most people learn the difference between the encyclopedia and Alice in Wonderland pretty early on, but they're fucking FICTIONAL CHARACTERS. You even said "yes i know that's in literature." Good, so what's the problem here? "...but all people have used a term their not proud of and say that you haven't is a full blown lie." Oh, so it wasn't relevant at all and you were just stalling needlessly. Excuse me while I make irrelevant small-talk about how there were characters (not actual people) who didn't say the 'n' word at all in books I've read, and how we should totally just eat waffles all day.

    Yes, we've all said things and words we are not proud of. The difference is most of us chose repentance (that means not doing it again) over bulldozing straight through the town hall of Respect and Common Fucking Decency.

    Also, honesty does not connote altruism; just because someone is up-front about killing their neighbour that one time, doesn't make the act of murder palatable. My point being bad people tell the truth, too. Besides, was she honest? From what I heard, she was dodging the issue and shedding crocodile tears. Yes, what a bastion of goodwill and progressive thought she most certainly isn't. I agree she would make a good parable, the general message being 'cut it out, racist dickbag.'

  • e jerry powell

    Southern Hippies? Like Alabama Shakes!

    I love southern hippies.

  • Dave Dorris

    This one hits home a little.
    I was not raised in the south, but in Pontiac, Michigan. By parents from the south. I heard "good ni***r and bad ni***r for most of my young life. My dad sometimes teased me about having an (imaginary) ni***r girlfriend, Complicating things was the fact that there was literally a railroad track between the two neighborhoods, And this was in the late 60's. In the suburbs of Detroit. And in truth, I encountered a great deal of racial anger from some of my classmates.

    What changed? 2 things. I had a Ni***r girlfriend. In 3rd grade. Not really of course because I was eight, but there was a black girl that totally captivated me. I don't remember her name nut I remember her smile.

    The second thing was my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Harger. Possibly the finest man I've ever met. I can hear his calming, soothing voice to this day. In his class you could earn privileges or lose them, based on your performance and behavior. You earned "chits" (coins) or "skins" ( paper money) that could buy a piece of candy now and then or a few extra minutes at recess. It did not matter who or what you were. Earn it or don't. We used to sing a song in (possibly fake) Chinese, and now I think I know why. It was just as foreign to us all.

    And Mr Harger reminds me of Mrs Hinton (1st and second grade) and Mrs Gibbs (3rd)

    At some point you just can't hate people who are so good to you. And when it's a bunch of them you start to see it's not a fluke.

    When I was 11 (1973) we moved to a completely white neighborhood because my dad was getting nervous about the "diversity" in Pontiac.

    In 2008 Both of my parents Voted for Barack Obama. Hope Floats.

  • don't want to pick a name

    My father is South Asian/white and my mother is Black, and I'm redheaded and freckled (courtesy of all that being labeled "Black" means in the US of A), and I have heard so much mind-blowingly racist BS in my life that I sometimes wish that I was deaf. People are the most awful things.
    And really, I'm just venting, 'cause I'm a little tipsy (translation: flat out drunk) and I have tomorrow off, and people tend to piss me off.
    Yeah, she's racist; yeah, she'll never believe it; and yeah, it was nice to see that Cheerios commercial, and screw anyone that feels different.
    I like bourbon.

  • Obsidiandog

    It's the same reason those that are jumping all over Deen won't admit they are rascists. Nobody thinks of themselves that way.

  • Clancys_Daddy

    Sorry but anyone who says they are not a racist is a liar. They are just to blind to admit it.

  • babykangarootribbiani

    this might come off offensive and if it does i apologize, but you could probably write a hell of a tell-all book about your childhood/life. i always tell my brother that cause he;s lived in georgia for five years and always has the best stories (we grew up in wisconsin. it;s cold and really boring.)

  • Slash

    Um, because they mostly hang out with other old, white racist people. It's a big ol' racist echo chamber down here (I live in Texas). If you don't say racist shit, or agree with the racist shit they say, they act like YOU'RE the weirdo.

  • John G.

    This was a very good piece, Dustin. The best way to attack these problems is to admit our own issues.

    for example, I was raised in California, and the term "mexican" was used as a slur all the time when I grew up. They used other words too to mean the same thing, and it basically meant "dirty, poor, stupid". To this day I can't hear that simple description of someone who is from the country of Mexico without wincing.

    But this is not just a problem with the south.

  • foolsage

    Huh. I was raised in the S.F. Bay Area and don't recall ever hearing "Mexican" used as a pejorative. There was one offensive term used to refer specifically to illegal immigrants of Hispanic heritage (referring to the moistness of their dorsal region), but that was literally the only racial pejorative I can recall being used with any frequency. Even that was quite rare.

    There's definitely still racism here though, even if the language of racism is rare.

  • John G.

    it might depend on where in california, as well as what social class you were raised in, as well as what decade.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    I was a teenager in the 70s and grew up in Chula Vista, which is about as far south as Southern California goes and I don't remember hearing "Mexican" used in that way either. I think "beaner" was about as bad as it got.

  • It's Dustin Rowles Day at Pajiba! Somehow is a way different than every other day. The only thing missing is a filibuster.

  • melancholicmess

    I was born and bred in Singapore and am now presently residing in Europe. Racism is alive and well here but well hidden, cleverly disguised and never discussed. I'm not saying it's a good thing that Paula Deen and others like here are racists but I like that it's being openly discussed in forums such as this. As a big brown woman, I've encountered racism my whole life, be it in my own community back in Asia and more so here in white damp dark Europe. Yet, I can never argue that the colour of my skin has nothing to do with the way I'm being treated here. Nobody here acknowledges it, even when it is so obvious. It's a horrible thing this vile in-bred disease but I guess you guys are luckier because you get to talk about it. And people like Paula Deen are being socially crucified for being racist. There's some justice in that. A lot more than I can say for the white people here.

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    It's like that in Canada (for non-native minorities), too. It's real and it's DEEP. We definitely have a myriad of difficulties here and honestly, Canada is a pretty racist country. Not to the degree as is America, but it's here and there's no accountability or transparency because no one has to answer for any racial discrimination because it doesn't exist here. Like fun, it doesn't. Every racist phenomenon in America is mirrored here. I have my share of personal horror stories as do all of the other black people I've ever met and we're treated like royalty compared to the people of the First Nations.

    And as for the shameful way the First Nations populations are treated: the last residential school closed in 1996. Sit in that for a while. And don't get sick because if there's if there's an outbreak the only medical intervention you'll get is a bunch of body bags sent to your reservation. It's vile.

  • melancholicmess

    I watch a lot of Canadian-produced shows. Now that you mention it, Rookie Blue is the only show where I see non-white people. All the other shows are almost always exclusively white.

  • BWeaves

    I was born in Florida. I'm white. When my mother taught me Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo back in the 1950's, the next line she taught me was "Catch a tiger by the toe." I didn't even know there was an n-word version until I was much older. It was a word I was taught early on to never utter or even think.

    When my mother was planning my wedding, my mother's maid said, "You must be so excited." Mom sighed, and said, "Yes, but it's a mixed marriage." The maid (who was black) said, "That's terrible. Black people should never marry white people." My Mom looked confused and said, "Oh, he's white. He's just not Jewish." The maid said, "You call THAT a mixed marriage?" My husband was suddenly OK in my mother's eyes after that eye opening conversation.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    My mother used the N word quite a bit and I remember one embarrassing encounter when I was a small child in a nut store when I asked her if she was going to buy some brazil nuts, but I used the rude name for them and there was a Black couple in the store. So yeah, kids are going to repeat what they hear.

  • cgthegeek

    Folks like Paula Deen are more afraid of being called racist than of actually being racist.

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    I'll just leave this here because I find it funny. True story. My mom was a died in the wool liberal who married my father who was a sort of casual racist. In the Paula Deen mode, someone who will infrequently use the N word, and make deragatory remarks about Mexicans, Blacks, etc, but thinks he is not "really" a real racist. My Mother taught for 20 years at Opa-Locka Elementary school in South Florida. Now Opa-Locka in the 80's and 90's was a very eye-opening place for a middle class white kid to visit and, I hope, instilled in me an appreciation for what I had and an understanding that racial inequality was very alive and well.

    Anyway, one day I was watching TV. And as we did in those days, I was sitting on the floor right up close in front of it. It was one of those nice Console TV's, and my Mom was folding Clothes behind me. I was watching a Conan movie. I don't remember which one, but it was the one with Grace Kelly. My mother, trying to engage her 8 year old son on something, asked what I was watching. Distractedly, I told her Conan. Well, what is it about she asks. I remember this vividly, since it was the point where Conan had first met Grace Kelly, and she was whirling around with a staff fighting Conan, so I wasn't really paying much attention to my Mom. So, she asks, Well who is in it? I replied Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    That was, pretty much the First and only time my Mother ever hit me, And it was not a gentle slap, she hauled off and whacked me on the back of my head. She had her Rings on, and I still feel like I have a dent on my skull to this day. I looked up, tears of course coming, and my Mother was almost shaking in anger. Don't you EVER use that word. And I just looked up, and rather plaintively cried, It's his name, his name is Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Needless to say, my Mother was not much of a Pop Culture Paragon, and apparently did not know who The Arnold was. That coupled with the fact that Arnold was fighting Grace Kelly on the screen at the time led her to think I had said Arnold and Some Ni**er. Once she understood, she apologized, and I maintained a hurt innocence for a little while, but it brought home to me how important it was for her that I not grow up behaving the way my Dad sometimes did. I am not perfect, and I have made mistakes of course, eg. an unfortunate Young Adult Phase where I liberally used the term Fa**ot to refer to countless individuals, but I always remember how important it was to my Mom to at least try to treat people equally, and especially to never use the N word.

    Thanks Mom.

  • ,

    Yikes, I have a story similar to that. When I was a little boy, there was a young black man who attended my church, named Ollie. I liked Ollie as much as any little kid can like a teenager. He was my buddy.

    One day in the church basement, I was playing with a hand puppet -- a black cat puppet that, using a little kid's full imagination, I must have called Blackie -- and I was talking to it, and said something like, "Say hello, Blackie," at the moment Ollie walked past.

    My mother shredded me, in front of God and everybody, told me how terrible I was for insulting Ollie.

    I was, of course, completely baffled. I probably had to apologize to him, for something I had no clue about. Why would I insult Ollie, he was my buddy. And I had no way to explain myself, because I didn't understand what it was I was supposed to have done. I hope wherever he is, Ollie eventually figured out that I didn't mean him.

    Stupid mothers.

  • Some Guy

    Yeah, I read the Conan part and was all like, "When the hell was the former Princess of Monaco in a movie with Arnold?"

  • grockk

    Nice story but Grace Jones and Grace Kelly are quite different.

  • DeltaJuliet

    That's awesome...having never seen Conan I had no idea who he was talking about. But I knew it wasn't Grace Kelly.

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    You are, of course, correct. I would change it, but then your comment would just look silly, so I shall leave it and bow my head in shame at my inability to keep the Grace's separate in my mind.

  • grockk

    Easy to mess names up but I was at a loss for a while as to what movie this could be.

  • foolsage

    I would watch the hell out of that movie.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    It would be kind of awesome to have seen Grace Kelly in a loincloth spear-fighting. (bo staff fighting? been a while since I saw it)

  • Fabius_Maximus

    It was a wooden spear. Quite silly, with all the metal weapons around. Then again, the movie is quite ridiculous.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Am I crazy, or are you the one who always answers my very specific movie ponderings (like the Terminator aging question...)?

  • Fabius_Maximus

    There was a Terminator aging question?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Maybe you aren't then. :)

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    Or maybe you are crazy.....

  • Some Guy

    "...The eyes of twenty million blacks can easily see that this white fox here in the North is even more cruel and vicious than the white wolf in the South. The Southern wolves always let you know where you stand. But these Northern foxes pose as white liberals, they pose as your friend, pose as your benefactor, pose as your employer, they pose as your landlord, they pose as the neighborhood merchant, they pose as your lawyer trying to help you. They infiltrate all your organizations, and in this manner, by joining you, they strangle your militant efforts toward freedom, toward justice, and toward equality."

    -Malcolm X

  • bleujayone

    I would like to make what I feel is a logical and sensible a request for the purposes of this post to all of my fellow human beings in that I would like the N-word eradicated from use.

    And by that I don't just mean stamped out by white people, and rightfully vilifying those white folk foolish enough to use it. I mean everyone. Don't tell me that spelling it with an "a" on the end instead of an "er" somehow makes it better, because it just makes you sound like a bigot with an Eastern Massachusetts accent. Don't tell me that by using it every day in regular vernacular that you're somehow taking away its power to hurt people, because if a racist hurled it at the top of their lungs it would be just as enraging and offensive as it's ever been. Don't tell me you don't mind it being used regularly and casually in media be it music, comedy and movies as though it were just another meaningless word. And don't tell me I have no right to get offended by the use of it based on whose mouth it's coming out of. There is no acceptable double standard for its usage.

    Nobody should be saying this word. It is a word born of hatred and ignorance. It is still to this day used as such. And it is the only racial slur in my recollection that has ever found baffling niche even among some the people it was aimed at in the first place. If you really want to punish those who use it, you need to lead the charge by saying it is ALWAYS unacceptable no matter who says it. It is not a term of endearment. It is not funny. It is not a good descriptor. And it is a poor way to express a sense of outrage or injustice. It is not a word I wish to use or hear without exception. I would hope no one else would either. Not just the word itself, but also for all the negativity it represents and always will. And while it may be wishful thinking, if we never heard this and other words of hate uttered again, it would be a step in the right direction for our species.

  • Jen13

    I grew up mainly in Oklahoma, where I heard more times than I can count that n_r really meant "ignorant" and had nothing to do with race. Anyone can be one if they are dumb! I'm very glad that my parents did not think or feel that way (my mother did in fact have the cliche good black friend, our "Aunt Kat") and therefore did not raise us in that way. I love to go back and visit family and old stomping grounds, but you'd never make me move back. Ever. I'm quite happy on the east coast and even happier that my children go to a school with about a 50/50 ratio of whites and minorities vs the 90/10 I grew up with.

  • DominaNefret

    How about, instead of implying that using this term makes you a horrible person and racist, we work on educating people as to why?
    Of course she doesn't want to be thought of, or think of, herself as a racist. People hate racists! Nobody who thinks of themselves as a good person wants to be thought of that way.
    People get defensive when accused of being something they don't want to be.
    I just don't think name calling will help at all here.

  • vic

    She just offended quite a lot of people of color and is too ignorant to know why and too stubborn to learn her way out of this ignorance. I doubt, outside of the klan and like-minded institutions, that anyone who is or is called a racist likes the label very much, but it doesn't make it true. It's like when a truly incompetent person is called that or worse. It's true until they become competent.

  • vic

    Dammit, "but it doesn't make it *false*," I meant to say.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I just don't think name calling will help at all here.
    - she said, dripping with irony.

  • BobbFrapples

    I grew up in southern Arkansas and I am still ashamed of the awful things I parroted because one of my parents was a racist. Luckily, college got me out of there and I learned that his tiny world view wasn't how the world really worked. I'm free and I'm never going back.

  • MichaelAndTheArgonauts

    Anyone else getting a Pacific Rim Kaiju vibe from that header pic?

  • Germdawg

    Nothing like standing against racism and intolerance than by generalizing and lambasting a group of people, in this case Southerners, good job... This is like spanking a child and telling him/her not to hit...

  • John

    But the smugness feels so damn GOOD!

  • Some Guy

    Hi! Anyone care to guess who the racist Paula Deen campaigned for in both 2008 and 2012?

    Maybe the title of this piece should be changed to "Paula Deen and why so many racist Democrats don't believe they're actually racist."

    This has nothing to do with the South.

  • vic

    Politics didn't even enter into the article. I'm not denying there aren't any racist Democrats (not only are we discussing one here, but for most of American history, they were racists par excellence) , but don't you dare say there aren't racist Republicans just because you found out Deen's a Democrat.

    At any rate, it's not germane to this conversation. Her voting for Obama and then using that is not unlike the whole "but I have a black friend!" argument. It doesn't excuse you when you do and say racist things. It just shows you're inconsistent.

  • foolsage

    So your contention is that this is a political issue, and most or all racists are Democrats? Or are you claiming that most or all Democrats are racists?

  • Some Guy

    Neither? First, I don't think I used the words "most" or "all" anywhere, so I don't know why I would be referring to a majority of any one particular group. I'm just saying that there are democrats out there, the party now self-described as the one against racism, who are in fact racist, but either don't know it, or don't care to admit it. Hence the line, "racist democrats," thereby indicating I am referring to democrats that are racist, and not all democrats in general.

    Is this a political issue? Nope, but It can be.

    The reason there's such a firestorm over this issue is because some Democrats, who feel they aren't racist and must prove themselves so at every opportunity, must immediately destroy anyone who reveals themselves to be even the slightest bit prejudiced, not because they really care all that much that an old white woman dropped the N-word back when Reagan was President, but because they really want to prove to themselves and their friends that they're not racist.

    All this is is another dog and pony show for white liberals to assuage their guilt. That no one has mentioned the fact that Deen supported Obama not once, but twice, is IMO indicative of the fact that her protesters and the media don't want to associate Deen's political beliefs with their own.

  • ,

    Don't blame me, I voted for Alan Keyes.

  • foolsage

    Dustin's think piece wasn't about political groups though; it was about geography, and moreso about how being around racists can make racism seem normal. You're not addressing that at all. Rather, you're trying to make this into a political issue; you're using this as a very thinly-veiled pretext to attack Democrats. You even claim that this whole issue is about Democrats somehow; Dems attacking Dems!

    Yes, there are racists in both parties. There are racists in the North, South, West, Midwest, and East. There are even racists in Canada! I know, right? Canada, eh? There are many racists who don't realize that they're racist, and who would deny it when asked; Deen's an example in fact.

    Be that as it may, I don't agree at all that the outrage is over some white liberal guilt bullshit. Rather, it's fairly simple: Deen's an overt racist, and a lot of people don't like that.

  • vic

    These Democrats who are calling out Deen do so because it is the right thing to do, namely call out people for outrageously ignorant and offensive things. If they have done or said racist things, I would not object to them being called out for it. What I would object to is if it were used to shut down the debate and somehow exonerate Deen because some of her accusers are hypocrites, knowingly or not. Or person's sins are not excused by another. She should still know that what she did was wrong and offensive, or at least know -why- it was wrong and offensive.

    And again, political affiliation and that she voted for Obama is not relevant here. If she had voted for McCain or Romney, I doubt it would really come into the conversation. Besides, I'm sure there are Republicans who are, at the least, very uncomfortable with her actions. I haven't looked across the board at who's taking to her to task for it, so there may be a number who are vocally against what she did.

    The bottom line: Regardless if a number of the people who are taking her to task over this have some racist skeletons in their closet, she still did something wrong. If you agree that she did, and are concerned with the hypocrisy of some of those who are calling her out, the two needn't cancel each other out.

  • puppetDoug

    There is a similar problem in the North, but I think it's worse. People down south throw the words around as if they're meaningless and are still pretty backward and hateful, but it's all still on the surface or as soon as you turn your back -- even if they don't think they're racist. In the North, it's all exactly the same, but even more careful and clandestine: people say it when you're not in the room or in they're own head, and don't realize they're racist even more so. They think they're liberal and progressive, but their ignorance and denial of their own prejudice makes it worse to me. Both of them have reasons I feel I should let it slide, but can't. Southern racists are just speaking and acting the way they were raised, and may not harbor any actual negative feelings, and many are only half as racist as their black neighbor is. Northern racists genuinely try to help the poor minorities, but both have assumed and general inferiority as the unspoken thesis. The North didn't want freed slaves moving into their neighborhoods, either, and in many ways NOT growing up with people tossing around bad words means your hate is based on something other than an inherited position.

  • kim voeks

    The saying is "In the South black people can get as close as they want , but they can't get too big. In the North they can get as big as they want, just don't get too close."

  • puppetDoug

    Fucking excellent.

  • You hit the nail on the head. I grew up in rural Texas. We never used the n-word in play or at home and my parents tried to teach us to not be racist, but I've realized recently that I am a little bit racist. It's not an attractive quality and I'm working very hard on overcoming it. It's hard, very hard, to undo years of subconscious brainwashing.

    My racism is more being uncomfortable around men of color. Part of that is being a woman in a rape culture (I'm uncomfortable around strange white men as well), but most of it is just pure shitiness on my part and I am truly sorry.

    My parents on the other hand? They are much more racist than I thought they were growing up. Some of the comments they've made to me have really thrown me for a loop. I've called them on it, but they are 73 years old and unlikely to change.

    In short, you don't have to use racial slurs to be racist.

  • foolsage

    It's a hard thing, realizing you have a bias that you don't want.

    I can relate, though with casual sexism in place of racism. I was in a fraternity while at university several decades ago, and I sang those degrading songs along with my brothers. There wasn't any date rape but there was plenty of casual misogyny and "bros before hos" type thinking. It took me years before I realized just how destructive and hurtful that whole attitude is. I would never in a million years have called myself sexist, but nonetheless, I was. I didn't insult women to their faces, and didn't use hate speech, but there's no question in my mind that I was part of the problem.

    You don't have to use any slurs to be a bigot, sadly. You just have to spend a lot of time around other bigots, and it starts to seem normal to think of some people as less important or just generally "less".

  • Dennis Albert Ramirez

    the issue with teachers not chiding the students reminds me of a story in the local Chicago Reader not too long ago, where a white teacher on the South Side confiscated notes being passed and forth between two sixth grade girls, one of which was crying, and began to read them aloud until he saw they contained the word n****r among other hurtful words, and decided to have "a teaching moment", educating the kids on the history of the word and why it shouldn't be used colloquially.

    at one point, he said the word aloud in class to demonstrate a point (which he elaborated on). the whole class debated and talked about it's usage, especially the two girls who were fighting. they apologized, the class applauded, and the two girls actually came up to him and thanked him after class.

    the problem, is that the principal randomly came down and sat in the class at the moment he said the word aloud, completely missing the context as to why.

    it lead to a controversy of course, and even though the students stood up for him, he was eventually suspended, and eventually ended up suing CPS, which claimed he had been using vile language against the students, despite the claims otherwise. a lot of controversy over the idea of "teaching moments" and the authority of teachers to handle these matters.

    here's the link if you want to read it, it's a pretty interesting story:

    *i don't know if they show it in the article, but that header image was the magazine cover that week, which freaked a lot of people out until the inside reveals that scratched out word is actually "never", which i thought was a super clever riff on Louis C.K.s bit about when people say "N-word", they force you to say the word in your head yourself

  • Natalie


    I feel very sad for you and your wonderful kids. It's none of my business what you do, but since you've posted this piece you've made this public. So I'd like to share an experience of mine which perhaps you could consider so that you and your kids need not be estranged from your parents.

    Middle East politics tends to make racists of people, although they will deny it. We live in a neighborhood with a high density of Jews (not so far away from you) go to an orthodox synagogue, send our girls to a Jewish school. People are very supportive of Israel in our community and this support is relayed to the kids. But sometimes that support leads to anti-Arab sentiment and it's more common than I would like to admit. So my girls have heard a few comments here and there from adults and kids alike (children mimic their parents in this regard).

    But what I've found is that this provides me with an excellent teaching opportunity. Racism is everywhere. Rather than shelter my kids, I explain why people say or think certain things, why it's wrong, and then prove it. I also back this up with stories about Arabs and/or Muslims (people think they're the same), or kids' books that take place in predominantly Muslim countries, or showing the contributions that Arab civilization has made to the world. My girls know all about Muslim holidays thanks to the fact that they went to a non-Jewish preschool with a Turkish teacher who taught all holidays. And we have some Muslim friends that I make a point of letting her know that's who they are. Unfortunately, I don't have any Arab friends here, but if I did I would certainly use them to instill a multi-cultural awareness.

    Racism can be combatted easily simply because it's based on a limited perception of a group. You just need to show them the whole picture. Not only will they learn about people and cultures different than what they grow up with, but they'll learn about racism, why it's not good, and how to deal with it.

    Too much for a 6 yr old to deal with? Your kids will surprise you. And it will make them more aware, more mature.

    So you could have a visit to your parents, and then read your girls a story about brave Ruby Sparks and de-segregation, or about George Washington Carver.

    Ultimately, it's you and your wife who will help shape your children, not grandparents who see them a few times a year. And it's a good thing that they should learn about a controversial issue from you, and not elsewhere. You will help shape their first thoughts about it.

    If this post is too soap-boxy, I apologize. I just think that you've got a win-win situation here, and are suffering needlessly.

    Best of luck, parenting is hard no matter what you do. Thanks for writing the post.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Whoa. I'm going to assume "Ruby Sparks" is a crazy autocorrect from "Rosa Parks"?

  • Natalie

    Oh god, no. It's worse. What you say makes sense and would be a valid mix-up.
    I meant Ruby Bridges, but somehow I got confused with Robin Sparkles from How I Met Your Mother.

    I blame my kids and lack of sleep.

  • TK

    I love you to death for this, and you know every single reason why.

    Here's my thing on Paula Deen:

    I don't care. I don't. I don't care that she lost her job. On the rather lengthy list of people that I have profound empathy for, a millionaire white lady who called someone "Ni**er" is not high on the list. No, wait, she's not on the fucking list at all. And I'm insulted that fans, the media, who-fucking-ever, feel that I should somehow feel bad for her.

    You're famous, you said some dumb shit, you lost your job for it, and the wheel will just keep on turning.

  • ,

    Any empathy for the people employed by Paul Deen Enterprises, or whatever her operation is called, who lose their jobs? Not being contentious, just noting that while the "millionaire white lady" might not suffer much, many people further down the food chain might suffer a lot so that some of us can feel righteous. She's likely just the face of a multimillion-dollar business that employs dozens, maybe hundreds of people. Not saying we have to tolerate racist attitudes, if that's indeed what she has, just noting that few people will consider the collateral damage done to honest working folks while the Indignation Industry rolls on and on ...

  • TK

    Of course I would empathize with those people. But I would also posit that, in fairness, those losses are her responsibility, and it is decidedly unfair to try to rest the blame for any residual fallout that affects those people (assuming that there is any, which has yet to be established) on anyone else.

    And I feel terrible for those people. But I certainly won't share in the burden of responsibility.

  • ,

    I'm just suggesting maybe there should be some middle ground between accepting people with racist attitudes and cutting them dead, as WalMart et al have done. Martha Stewart went to prison for six months and still came out to an intact company. What Paula has supposedly done isn't even technically a crime, yet she's getting fired left and right and taking lots of people's jobs with her. It seems to me a huge overreaction to someone who doesn't seem to have much track record of, y'know, hatin' on the blacks. Didn't people mention her campaigning twice for Obama? Couldn't Paula just spend a day in the stockade and have people throw tomatoes at her -- check that, she might like fried green ones -- and then, with her tail between her legs, go back to providing employment for many people?

    Also, it's not like WalMart's hands are completely clean in the way corporate treats the hired help.

  • Three_nineteen

    Don't punish rich people because it might hurt poor people? That's an interesting attitude.

    I'll go a step further. What about the people who will get hired to work on the show that replaces Deen's show? Don't they deserve jobs?

  • TK

    I suppose, but I stand by my original statements. I feel bad for any employees for any suffering that they incur (as a result of her actions). I feel nothing for Paula Deen. Those two do not have to necessarily be entwined in terms of my emotional response.

    As for WalMart, how did that even enter into the equation? Did I defend WalMart at some point?

    And... is the argument is going to be that we can't pass judgment on corporations or corporate entities because it'll hurt the little people? Because that seems kind of crazy.

  • ,

    No, you didn't defend WalMart. What I meant was, WalMart up and fired Paula (in an attempt to appear progressive, more likely just to cover its economic ass), when its own employee policies have long been held in question. Maybe Paula should have fired WalMart first. But if we started asking everyone to do the upright thing and holding people to impossible standards, not much business would get done in America. Or anywhere else, for that matter. We'd all be out of work, and then what?

    I'm just kind of curious why we and Corporate America have chosen this particular time to make an example of Paula Deen.

    Also, I think it was Jesus who said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." That could apply not just to WalMart but to all of us.

  • cgthegeek

    The Free Market has spoken. It says her image tarnished the Food Network brand and it's bad for business. Thus, she was fired. You'd think people would understand that.

  • Maguita NYC

    But she's a white old lady with puppy-dog eyes imploring your forgiveness.

    This has worked so far, hasn't it?


  • TK

    No ma'am, it has not.

  • Maguita NYC

    Added the "Snort" so people on edge don't miss the tongue-in-cheek.

  • dilwazr

    I'd say most actual racists don't believe they're "racist." Because everyone knows "racism" is bad, right? Hence the so-fucking-frequent preamble, "I'm not racist, but..." I think so many people have divorced the word "racism" from the actual, deeply ingrained, completely pervasive, racism that exists in this country, regardless of geography.

    Also, maybe this is not being helpful, but as horrible as slavery is and as absolutely necessary as abolition was, the Civil War COMPLETELY fucked the economy in the South. So it sort of makes sense that there'd be such a deep resentment for that. Isn't right, mind you, but makes sense.

  • Eva

    Of course the Southern economy was fucked up with the abolishing of slavery because it was entirely based upon not having to pay wages to its workers (slaves). For the first couple hundred years in the U.S. the Southern "economy" consisted of the wealthy plantation owners who ran everything, their slaves and a small population of impoverished family farmers. Meanwhile the North had a diversified, manufacturing and wage based economy that was more resilient and able to bounce back. There is no way the South could not have gotten fucked, except for slavery to be allowed to continue.

  • Some Guy

    Yeah, and the Northern economy got as powerful as it did by exploiting immigrants. They weren't technically slaves, but they might as well have been.

    What's your point?

  • Eva

    I already made my point and it was pretty clear.

  • Guest

    This. I think a lot of people get that 'racist' and 'racism' are bad (and they are, so this is a good thing)-- but then they go 'since I am a good person [and most of us feel this way], I CANNOT be a racist.' I think that's what's going on with ol' Paula there. The denial and lack of insight are STRONG with a lot of people.

    Yes, yes you can be a racist. The first step is acknowledging it.

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