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StellaM

Blackface - What the heck!!

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So, a certain PM who shall remain nameless, 'cos this isn't about politics, was snapped as an adult in blackface. 

I looked up his date of birth, and he's the same age as me. 

I knew that blackface was offensive and racist when I was a kid - what's his excuse ?!

We're the same generation, from similar countries, with similar political outlooks... there is no way he can't have known it was offensive. And he's really not the only one to be 'caught out' in such blatant disrespect and idiocy. 

What do you guys reckon ? Gen X, didn't know as a young adult that white people shouldn't black up ? Is that even a thing ?! 

 

 

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I am of a similar age. Dude, we knew.

I went to a Halloween party last year when two people came in blackface. I cannot look at them the same way ever again. I am still trying to sort out the cognitive dissonance that occurred that night.

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6 minutes ago, prairiewindmomma said:

I am of a similar age. Dude, we knew.

I went to a Halloween party last year when two people came in blackface. I cannot look at them the same way ever again. I am still trying to sort out the cognitive dissonance that occurred that night.

 

Right ?

I just read someone saying 'oh, it was 2001, it wasn't understood as offensive back then' and I'm like ????

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I remember being shocked when I saw little kids in blackface during Carnival in Germany in 2000.  Now obviously it wasn’t taboo in Germany at the time (these were groups of kindergarteners with their teachers...) but it sure was taboo in affluent college-educated liberal North America, which I believe is the relevant jurisdiction for him.  (Not to say it wouldn’t have been taboo for other North Americans too.)

Although as there was clearly a different cultural standard in at least some parts of Europe at the time, I wonder what the feeling was in Quebec circa 2000. 

Edited by Lawyer&Mom
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I'm a smidge older than he, and I knew it. People still did it. I was horrified when fraternities at my college did such things. 

ETA: I think the PM got away with it because of his privilege. Daddy being who Daddy was.

Edited by scholastica
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I'm right around his age and yeah, it was common knowledge back then that it was wrong. I don't remember ever seeing anyone in blackface in person in my entire life.

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Just now, Selkie said:

I'm right around his age and yeah, it was common knowledge back then that it was wrong. I don't remember ever seeing anyone in blackface in person in my entire life.

 

Same here! I’m older than he is, and I have never seen anyone in blackface in person, either. 

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I was floored by that.

But I will say... I am a smidge younger than him and grew up in the American south and I would not say that I understand how wrong blackface as "as a kid." I mean, Little Black Sambo is a book that I actually saw as a kid. People gave me black peddler dolls. My elementary school held a "slave auction" where upperclassmen were auctioned off for a day as a fundraiser. My grandparents and cousins lived in a town that was still strongly segregated in many ways - there was still a black and a white prom there when I was in high school. My cousin attended the white prom. No one ever said to me, these things are racist. I had to start figuring that out myself without the support of an institutional cultural message about it or an explicit one by my parents.

By college though, yes, I would say that I knew it wasn't something one should do. But I couldn't have fully articulated why. And if I had seen someone in blackface (and that's a whole other thing... I just mentioned a boatload of crazy racist stuff I personally experienced and saw growing up and I never once to my knowledge saw blackface in real life... so how the heck do so many have blackface in their backgrounds!?!? It's baffling!) I probably wouldn't have recoiled. At age 19 or 20, I probably would have thought, gee, that seems uncomfortable. I'm just going to back away. And not engaged.

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7 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

I would say I did not know it was offensive until the last few years. 

 

Do you remember why you thought it was non-offensive ? Like, did someone say something about it ? Or you just weren't exposed to it/didn't think about it ?

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I had to look up the date, but I remember in 1993 that Ted Danson did a black face roast of his girlfriend Whoopi Goldberg. I think she wrote it? It definitely became a conversation topic that year.

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I see it as a privilege thing.  Not just a white privilege but a socio-economic privilege thing.  As in I have been on the periphery of society's movers and shakers over the years (as the help) and you would be surprised (or maybe not) at what they thought that they could say and do and not be called on it.  And back in the day, they weren't called on it.  But now they are are it is coming back to bite them in the you-know-what. 

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When I was in 6th or 7th grade,  Michael Jackson was in his prime. There was a Thriller themed Halloween party and several different (white) people dressed as Michael Jackson, complete with the glove and jacket.  They wore blackface and had their hair in the MJ curl, etc.  In that context, no one (myself included) thought anything of it. We laughed and were impressed with how good the costumes were.

But fast forward a few years later to highschool homecoming festivities. A group of seniors wore blackface on the float for the parade. Most everyone,  myself included again,  were horrified. I don't know if it was the difference in context,  or the difference in maturity/learning more about the world,  or maybe a combination of both that led to the vastly different reactions.

I've never seen anyone in blackface besides those two incidents. If it matters,  I grew up in the deep south. 

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Is it possible that he's just an insensitive and/or clueless clod?  He might think he's playing a role to the hilt rather than being offensive?

He does seem to have a flair for the dramatic.  Remember when he and his family were criticized for their clothing choices when they visited India?     

 https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-43151115

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I grew up in TX, which I guess is it’s own thing and hell yes it was wrong back in the 80’s when I was growing up. We were actively taught when it happened and what it represented and why it was wrong. I also remember the Ted Danson uproar of the 90’s a decade afterward. If we Texans,  who so many consider backward and vestiges of a hierarchical  society, saying ma’am and all, could figure it out 40 years ago I have trouble seeing how a Canadian rich guy, at a super woke institution didn’t know it by 2000. 

But I also don’t get why Prince Harry dressed up like a Nazi and was surprised that wasn’t okay either- but that got neatly tied up in a bow and passed into the past and now he’s also a hero. For now. Andrew’s stuff with Epstein is coming back to bite him too....All of that combined makes me agree with PP that its got to be a socioeconomic thing at some level. I honestly don’t get it at all. But clearly I don’t run in those circles! 

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I'm watching Designing Women on Hulu, and it was a plot point when Suzanne dressed up in Blackface to sing a Supremes number-and the assumption was definitely that everyone would be offended (except for the perennially clueless Suzanne) And the show came out in 1986. 

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1 minute ago, dmmetler said:

I'm watching Designing Women on Hulu, and it was a plot point when Suzanne dressed up in Blackface to sing a Supremes number-and the assumption was definitely that everyone would be offended (except for the perennially clueless Suzanne) And the show came out in 1986. 

Ain’t no mountain high enough! I totally remember that episode. 🙂 

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Adolescents and young adults can be really, really stupid in really stupid ways - especially if nobody explicitly tells them "this stuff isn't okay". And we all know that hardly anybody is having frank and open discussions with white kids about race and racism.

And so, in general, I try to give people a little benefit of the doubt for their bad behavior as youths. If they appear to regret the stuff they did and can honestly say that they wouldn't do it now, haven't done it since... well, all right. When you know better, you do better. I like to think that people can change, and that means I have to give them a chance to show that they have changed.

But that doesn't mean I think we can just pass it by with a laugh and "Well, times were different then!" They weren't so different that good manners weren't in fashion. And the person in question would really have to show that they understand why it's wrong or inappropriate to have done what they did, and how it's potentially harmful, and show some freaking remorse.

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2 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

Adolescents and young adults can be really, really stupid in really stupid ways - especially if nobody explicitly tells them "this stuff isn't okay". And we all know that hardly anybody is having frank and open discussions with white kids about race and racism.

And so, in general, I try to give people a little benefit of the doubt for their bad behavior as youths. If they appear to regret the stuff they did and can honestly say that they wouldn't do it now, haven't done it since... well, all right. When you know better, you do better. I like to think that people can change, and that means I have to give them a chance to show that they have changed.

But that doesn't mean I think we can just pass it by with a laugh and "Well, times were different then!" They weren't so different that good manners weren't in fashion. And the person in question would really have to show that they understand why it's wrong or inappropriate to have done what they did, and how it's potentially harmful, and show some freaking remorse.

Yeah, except the person in question wasn't a youth. He was thirty years old. 

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Y'all are making me realize that sitcoms are probably where I learned blackface isn't okay. Thanks, network TV!

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Not every one experiences life from an American perspective with it's history of slavery and minstrel shows.

I am not American.  I have gone to parties with people in costume with face paint.  They liked the culture and wanted to dress like the people for Halloween or Theme Party.   There was no ill intent.

It is only recently that this became a topic of conversation outside of the U.S.

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Born in the late 80s in the South. The only time as I kid I remember anything about blackface was in some old TV show, probably a cartoon, maybe even "Song of the South," but my memory is vague. I remember thinking that they were making fun of black people in a weird way but thought that because of the whole schtick, not just the face paint. By high school, and possibly by fifth grade, we'd been explicitly taught the history and that it was wrong. Then, I got to college and some of my classmates "joked" about using black face in Halloween costumes. The majority, thankfully, talked them out of it, but a sizable minority thought such things were transgressive but acceptable. Those of them I still know would absolutely not feel that way now.

 

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2 hours ago, StellaM said:

So, a certain PM who shall remain nameless, 'cos this isn't about politics, was snapped as an adult in blackface. 

I looked up his date of birth, and he's the same age as me. 

I knew that blackface was offensive and racist when I was a kid - what's his excuse ?!

We're the same generation, from similar countries, with similar political outlooks... there is no way he can't have known it was offensive. And he's really not the only one to be 'caught out' in such blatant disrespect and idiocy. 

What do you guys reckon ? Gen X, didn't know as a young adult that white people shouldn't black up ? Is that even a thing ?! 

 

 

 

Brownface - it is offensive to people of many different cultures and continents. 

https://time.com/5680759/justin-trudeau-brownface-photo/

 

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5 minutes ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

I think it's pretty nuts that he can't say how many times he's done it! I mean, how often does the occasion arise, exactly? 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2019/sep/19/justin-trudeau-says-he-doesnt-remember-how-many-times-he-wore-blackface-video

 

I bet the number of times he remembers magically equals the number of pictures there are...

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I’m 45 and I’m not sure when I knew. I’m going to embarrass myself and say it might have been in the last 15 years. I feel like we might have had some kind of lip synch battle or something in high school where this was done and I don’t remember any issue around it. But seriously, we were not the most educated bunch. 

But the strangest thing about all this is the very people who should know better (educated, upper class, politically motivated and savvy) are the people that have so many occasions to have dressed up this way. I can understand an ignorant Halloween costume or the like but how come these upper class people have so many events and parties that call for such antics? But just can’t imagine a life with that many social engagements that call for blackface that these people in the class of elites seem to have had. 

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1 hour ago, StellaM said:

 

Do you remember why you thought it was non-offensive ? Like, did someone say something about it ? Or you just weren't exposed to it/didn't think about it ?

It just seemed like a costume to me.  If it matters I grew up in an all white county among a bunch of racists. But  my mother was NOT racist. I will have to ask her if she thought of black face as racist.  

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It really depends on where you lived I think, and also your social circle, when it became recognised as a problem, and how it was applied.

I was surprised by the earlier example which I think was at his school, even though it happened before the one with the pictures that came out in the media.  It was what most of us think of when we think of blackface, and I'd have expected someone at the school would have been aware that it wasn't really the thing to do.  As far as someone who is a teen, they miss all kinds of things that just never happened to have crossed their paths, and sometimes social nuance too, so I am never that surprised when they do dumb things like that.  But I'd have expected someone on the staff to disallow it.

On the other hand, I went to university with a lot of kids from a similar background to his, in fact with the brother of the person in question.  The nature of their political awareness was always a little weird.  Certain causes they were all over (Free Tibet was big among that group and certain environmental things) and other things were not on their radar at all (the labour movement, say.) They also tended to have traveled to places like Europe or Asia, but not the US.

As far as the photo where he was meant to be an Arab man, I was much less surprised at that one.  No one at that time in Canada that I know of would have used the term brownface, and it was still done at times in theatre settings.   It's revealing IMO that the whole event seems to have been designed for that kind of costume.  I think that being looked at in a similar light to more traditional conceptions of blackface mirrors the growth of the idea of cultural appropriation, which was in academia by the 80s but only really exploded in the general public in about the last 10 years or so.

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2 hours ago, Selkie said:

I'm right around his age and yeah, it was common knowledge back then that it was wrong. I don't remember ever seeing anyone in blackface in person in my entire life.

I'm with you - my only association with "blackface" was the very old Shirley Temple movie (the Little Rebel??).

That said - I'm not sure I was ever told specifically not to do it.  I never considered doing it, so I'm not sure what would have been said if I had.  Hopefully someone more mature would have said something.

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The fact that he did it MORE THAN ONCE?! It’s equal parts laughing and cringing to me, I just can’t bring myself to be offended but it certainly shows.... um... judgment issues?

He has done some weird cosplaying of various religions and ethnic garb during his time as PM too 🙄

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4 hours ago, StellaM said:

 

Right ?

I just read someone saying 'oh, it was 2001, it wasn't understood as offensive back then' and I'm like ????

bless his heart.... I became aware of things in the 70s - it was a no no then!  (and the gov., who got caught and denies it's him - dude, there can't be two pair of those utterly hideous plaid pants....)

my maternal grandparents were racists - and I knew it was wrong.

he really pushed it, and is pushing - there are four separate occasions!

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24 minutes ago, Scarlett said:

It just seemed like a costume to me.  If it matters I grew up in an all white county among a bunch of racists. But  my mother was NOT racist. I will have to ask her if she thought of black face as racist.  

Similar experience here. 

About fifteen years ago, one of my (female, white) relatives dressed up for Halloween as a black football player (a specific one who had been in the news for bad behavior).  Her hair was tucked into a skin cap and every inch of exposed skin was darkened with a costume makeup. Nothing about that registers to me as racist; she wasn’t mocking his race, she was doing a very convincing costume. (I still don’t know if people think that is blackface or if t is only blackface if it is meant to mock the race.)

About twenty years ago, a different family member - white, male - did a costume as Venus Williams, and his friend was Serena. So, I don’t know if that’s wrong, either. 

I did not know blackface was unacceptable until a college class in which we talked about racist themes in things like cartoons and sports logos. 

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2 hours ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

I see it as a privilege thing.  Not just a white privilege but a socio-economic privilege thing.  As in I have been on the periphery of society's movers and shakers over the years (as the help) and you would be surprised (or maybe not) at what they thought that they could say and do and not be called on it.  And back in the day, they weren't called on it.  But now they are are it is coming back to bite them in the you-know-what. 

 This is kind of something I was trying to put my finger on. I think I knew in high school (98-02) that it was bad. But people still did it frequently, even famous or important people, and there were no consequences at all, other than black people knowing you were an ass. 

I don't think I would have thought of brownface as wrong back then. I understood blackface to be offensive specifically because of the history of power imbalance and the racist history of white performers playing black people. I would not have thought that would translate to other races. "My culture is not your costume" had definitely NOT made it's way into my awareness back then. I don't think I was really aware of that for another decade.

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2 hours ago, Farrar said:

Y'all are making me realize that sitcoms are probably where I learned blackface isn't okay. Thanks, network TV!

Does anyone else remember the Gimme a Break episode?

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I didn’t know it was a bad thing when I was young.  ‘Soul Man’ with C Thomas Howell was one of my fave movies.  Obviously as I grew up, I figured it out.   I don’t really get it.  I’ve never been so committed to a costume, that I felt the need to change my skin color.   It just seems  weird.  

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I'm not exactly Gen X; I'm the weird Oregon Trail gen. I didn't necessarily know the term "blackface" as a child, but I've known long enough that it's not good. We talked about old offensive ads when I was in college (advertising classes). I think that may have been the first time I heard the term "minstrel" (The Minstrel Show). 

I never liked the opposite like the movie "White Chicks." I am not saying they are on the same wave length.

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So, I'm a bit younger than him but not much. I grew up in the middle of the country & didn't watch much TV growing up - as I distinctly remember not being able to talk about what happened on the sitcoms the day before with my peers.

3 hours ago, Scarlett said:

I would say I did not know it was offensive until the last few years. 

I will echo Scarlett's comment above. I don't remember hearing or learning anything about this practice being offensive in college but I studied engineering. I will add that I'm still a bit not clear on all the 'rules' about this.

For example, our homeschool group has a history night where the kids dress up like historical figures (and they can still be alive) with clues about who they are in front of them. The parents & friends go around asking the kids yes/no questions to try to figure out who they are. Is it not allowed to dress up like Sacagawea? Is it allowed as long as they don't tint their face with facepaint? Kids don wigs sometimes. Is that ok? Are only certain races off the table or all ethnicities? I'm seriously asking because we've had white kids dress up like Ancient Chinese emperors, women who help runaway slaves to freedom, Native American Catholic Saints, non-violent Indian resistance leaders, and French nuns. Some, I'm sure, involved face make up of some sort.

I will also say that I don't remember how many times I've seen someone wearing blackface because I have a really bad memory, and it was never that important of a thing to remember. So, it is possible I did it as a Halloween costume or for a party in my past & don't remember it. Y'all make me feel really sheltered sometimes.

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In my limited understanding, dressing up like a historical person or a person from fiction/literature is fine according to the vast majority of people. It's "I'm an Indian Princess", "I'm a geisha" - type costumes that are not ok. Painting skin to look like a different race is not OK ever. Not sure on wigs. I'd assume they're OK?

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3 minutes ago, Sk8ermaiden said:

In my limited understanding, dressing up like a historical person or a person from fiction/literature is fine according to the vast majority of people. It's "I'm an Indian Princess", "I'm a geisha" - type costumes that are not ok. Painting skin to look like a different race is not OK ever. Not sure on wigs. I'd assume they're OK?

Wigs give me pause. Like a white person wearing a wig that looks like an Afro? Context of course has a lot to do with it. 

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1 hour ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

I think it's pretty nuts that he can't say how many times he's done it! I mean, how often does the occasion arise, exactly? 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2019/sep/19/justin-trudeau-says-he-doesnt-remember-how-many-times-he-wore-blackface-video

 

exactly.  I've never in my life seen someone at a party in blackface.  But, it's not like I go to a lot of parties and I was never at a frat party. 

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16 minutes ago, heartlikealion said:

Wigs give me pause. Like a white person wearing a wig that looks like an Afro? Context of course has a lot to do with it. 

I feel like a white person wearing a wig meant to look like African American hair is more likely to be upsetting than almost any other combination. Because there has been so much racist history (and racist present day) around AA hair...

But I just haven't heard or read anything about it.

Edited by Sk8ermaiden
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4 hours ago, StellaM said:

 

Do you remember why you thought it was non-offensive ? Like, did someone say something about it ? Or you just weren't exposed to it/didn't think about it ?

I was never exposed to blackface until this past decade. Our history classes talked about the evils of white people but never minstrel shows. I'm 33 and grew up in an extremely diverse and low income area of Southern California. 

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Not remembering because he saw it as just another party costume I guess. Or was drunk and had help getting ready? I mean I have no idea. I can’t relate to that but just trying to guess. 

As far as wigs, I do remember a controversial costume online with a white guy dressed as Samual L. Jackson’s character from Pulp Fiction. Had he not done black face but donned the wig, it might have been ok. 

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3 hours ago, deBij said:

Not every one experiences life from an American perspective with it's history of slavery and minstrel shows.

I am not American.  I have gone to parties with people in costume with face paint.  They liked the culture and wanted to dress like the people for Halloween or Theme Party.   There was no ill intent.

It is only recently that this became a topic of conversation outside of the U.S.

 

I'm not sure I understand yet why its offensive to dress in costume with face paint. I would have thought blackface was putting on black paint to ridicule a race of people. Not to play a part.  In the early 2000s (maybe late 90s? I don't remember the time exactly) I played a character in a live action role playing game who was middle eastern in a game, complete with wig and finding just the right color makeup to make me look different from the previous character I had played.  No one said anything to me or that got back to me about it being a problem.

 

Edited by vonfirmath
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42 minutes ago, vonfirmath said:

 

I'm not sure I understand yet why its offensive to dress in costume with face paint. I would have thought blackface was putting on black paint to ridicule a race of people. Not to play a part.  In the early 2000s (maybe late 90s? I don't remember the time exactly) I played a character in a live action role playing game who was middle eastern in a game, complete with wig and finding just the right color makeup to make me look different from the previous character I had played.  No one said anything to me or that got back to me about it being a problem.

 

Because real people and their skins aren't costumes to be worn, sloughed off, and portrayed for the wearer's pleasure (or, more often, lampooned) based on caricatures and stereotypes. There's a long and sordid history in the US of darkening the skin with paint to portray real, live people as stupid, lazy, crazy or otherwise less. The fact that no one gaming with you said anything doesn't make it right or less offensive.

Edited by Sneezyone
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