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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am so angry, I cannot even think clearly. So I am hoping to find some clarity by writing and receiving any responses. Not long after we were married my dh and one his youngest sister (41) shared with me about their upbringing and how their family would use the "n" word and how their parents did not believe in the holocaust. This blew my mind and I was shocked as I had never seen any indication of this.

Then when my ds was around 2 1/2 or 3 we were with dh's family. My son had a little plastic digger book. Each page said something like big digger, little digger etc. His older sisters daughter (19) started to laugh at the page with dirty digger and said dirty "n". I felt my stomach turn inside out. I took my son upstairs and just sat there thinking what kind of people are these. I don't want my son around them. I was very very upset. Probably as upset as I am tonight.

Well, after I calmed down I spoke to my dh and we agreed that in future if there were any racist remarks we would confront them on this. As even though our son wouldn't understand at his young age, he would see that we did not agree with them. Fine.

Then tonight we are invited to his older sisters house for a barbeque to welcome back her daughter from college. I am thinking well she is now 22, I wonder if her world has opened for her. Things are going along just fine, until... I am in the kitchen and look down into his oldest's sisters computer room. On the wall is a sign. I swear I did at least a quadruple look. It was an old sign light green, paint chipping off it said Coloured Reception and the end was covered by something. I walked down and lifted two hats that were covering the last word Room. So the sign read "Coloured Reception Room." Now his older sister and husband were down south in the states as they had bought some property. My first thought is they brought that sign back with them!

Now, my head and stomach are reeling again. I walk outside and hear the uncle (Oldests sisters husband) and their 23 year old son talking about some gay magazine in Vancouver in a very derogatory way. But my head is spinning and I can't think straight. I take my son and go into the grass and play "i spy" with him so that we are not near the others. I want to go and ask them "What the hell is that?" and " what is the matter with you? Are you such racists and homophobes?" But I also felt I was not in control and that where I was at, was not the best place to say anything. I just wanted out of there.

We left soon afterwards and drove my dh's father home. After he got out, my dh said "Are you OK?" I said, no, that was so painful. I asked him if he had seen the sign. He had not. I thought perhaps because I am so, not detail oriented I had never seen it before. He said no, it wasn't there before. I said, part of me wondered if there was some explanation. He said, probably not. He said, have I not told you about them? I said, yes, but I just couldn't believe this.
I told him I had wanted to confront them on it. He asked why I didn't. I said because I was too upset.

My dh said "so what are you saying?" I said I didn't know. This is what I am trying to figure out. Part of me wants to say, Keep those people away from my child. But another part of me knows that they are his family and I am still in shock, even though he told me about his upbringing.

So, I have admitted I am very emotional and not thinking really clearly. Wondering if anyone has that distant perspective and can let me know how they think I should handle this situation with his older sister family.

Oh, also, in December his father (75) is going to be moving into our basement suite so that means his family will probably be coming over more. My dh and I had spoken in the past about him speaking to his father to make sure he knew where we stood in raising our child and the values we were wanting to pass on to him. My dh felt this would not be a problem with his dad. His father really seems to be mellow - so I don't think there would be a problem with him.
 

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Well, I think I would reconsider his dad moving in with you guys. As of now, it's easy to say "Sorry dh's sis, you can't come to our house." But with her father there, it would be extremely hard unless you can get her (and the other members of his family) to stop making derogatory statements. Sorry that wasn't much help.
 

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This is my family. I'm from the Deep South, and there's still some pretty pervasive racism in my family. It's a huge part of why I don't live anywhere near them. DH is like you - completely shocked that people would think/act/speak this way.

For us, we decided that we would confront the issues head on with DC, especially with reference to racial slurs. I won't wait until later to address it with them because I think then that makes me complicit in the racism.

As for your FIL moving in, I'd probably have a sit-down with him now to explain how you feel. Get a read for his response so that if necessary you all can look for alternative arrangements.
 

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The issue here should be about FILTERS. Most adult have thoughts, use language, discuss topics that young dc should NOT be exposed to. Thats the adult world for you. It could be anything from murder in the news, crimes against children, war?, affairs, curse words, race issues, and religion. Its not for us to decide what people can think or even say. But if these adults do not know how to use a language filter around your kids, then you must say something to them.
 

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Well, if you think they CAN be really good about using filters, it would be okay. I would tend to not want to be around anyone like that, but I have the happy benefit of not having family like that. You need to talk this through with your DH, see how he feels. But I would almost take it as a learning opportunity. I think so many young white people today don't believe racism is a problem anymore, because it's been swept under the rug mostly; seriously, the high schoolers I've taught believe racism is over. I think if it DID come up in later years, it would make for some very good teachable moments. Not saying that's a great thing to have coming into your life at this point, but if it's really important to DH to keep up contact, then it would be a way to look at it positively, maybe.
 

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Sigh, DH's family is like this. Not this bad, but they do use the 'N' word.


What worked for me, was being honest. I told his family they will not be allowed around my son if they use this type of language. They never actually said anything around him, but when DS was an infant MIL said something containing the N word over the phone. and I politely as I could told her, if she is going to use that word around DS then I can't have him around her. She doesn't say it anymore, not around me or DS.

I know how upset you must be, But I would be honest with them. If they can't be appropriate around your son, then keep him away. Maybe only have them over to your home under the condition there will be no racist language or anything like that. Maybe they will be more respectful if they are outside of their environment.

I would not be moving his father in, But also don't know what the circumstances are with him.
 

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I grew up in south Georgia, in a big family. My branch of the family is fairly liberal and less overtly racist, but lots of my extended family and dp's family are quite outwardly racist. There was actually a huge blow-out in dp's family just a month ago or so, when dp's little brother started dating an african-american girl. He wanted to take this girl to his senior prom, and his paren't refused to let him go. I was so mad that I offered to by his tickets; that may have been inappropriate but I coudn't stand the thought of seeing that girl's face when he had to back out of his date. Alas, it was too late.

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with these people. In many ways, I love them. They are my family. I know that they are reflections of the world they grew up in. At the same time, I will never be able to live near them again. I want dd to have a relationship with them, but I want it to be mostly a distant, controlled one, where she never sees their ignorance as normal. I want her to know that we don't agree with them- that the world doesn't agree with them- and that we don't take them seriously, because they have no power over us and our beliefs.

op, it is hard to completely write your family out of your life. But you don't have to see them often, or on any terms but your own. And definitely, speak up at gatherings about how offensive you find their behavior to be! It was hard for me to do this with dp's family at first. But now that I feel I have a voice, events are much more comfortable. For one thing, even very racist people realize that their views are not shared by normal society. If they know you aren't part of their backwards world, they'll usually keep their thoughts to themselves.

Also, I've honestly done some good. Dp's mom is a lot less racist than she was when we started talking. She realizes now that she is exposed to more of the world that there is another, better way (and also, that racism is "not Christian;" she's very religious and this was an important connection for her). She wanted to let little bro go to the prom with the girl he chose, but said that discussing it was like starting a world war with dp's dad.

Anyway, I'm not sure if this helps or not.
 

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You aren't, of course, going to chang their opinions on this. You realize this, yes? You have some limited options for changing their behavior in your presence though.

For your home you can definitely make and enforce whatever rules you want. So if they are visiting you (or living with you), I would definitely say "Please don't use that language in my house" or "We do not speak like that here, please find different words". For that reason, having them visit you might actually be better. And of course you should have total veto power over any sort of decor might be installed in your basement.

For other's homes, you have less influence. Frankly, I don't think you have any standing to object to "art" installed in a non-public part of the home. Even in general public view I think the best you might be able to say is "This might be confusing to child, could we move it for the time being?", sort of the same way you might approach an object that might be dangerous to a curious toddler in a non-babyproofed house. For speech, I think you might try "We would prefer Child not hear that sort of language at his age, could you please tone it down". If it gets to be too much or too difficult, or if they will not modify things, then I think cutting visits short is really your only option.

The good news is that once your child is old enough to talk about things, you can counter anything said in his presence on the way home. The same way you would address comments by people with different religous beliefs or other drastically different opinions. A chance comment (even repeatedly) by child's aunt isn't going to color his life values -- your consistant demonstration is.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
First I would like to thank each of you who responded to my post. I was actually still shaken up today by the whole ordeal. Reading your posts were very helpful.

I realized I was/maybe still am struggling with two different reactions. One, the more emotional/animal part of me, wants them out of my life. I want to have nothing to do with them. This part of me disdains them.

The other part of me believes that cutting people off because they have different views does not bring about healing, compassion, peace in the world. While I really don't agree or like some of their values, they also have good traits. So one part of me wants to be able to be authentic with how I feel about the things they say and do; but also see what is good within them;and have compassion on them. But easier said then done when I am so upset with them.

This is my family. I'm from the Deep South, and there's still some pretty pervasive racism in my family.
My eyes welled up in tears when I read this part of your post. It really helped me feel empathy for my dear husband; in that this is his family and they are a part of who he is.

"For us, we decided that we would confront the issues head on with DC, especially with reference to racial slurs. I won't wait until later to address it with them because I think then that makes me complicit in the racism."

I think this is very good advice. I really feel for my dh. He loves his family and does not want to cut them out of our life. He said he would speak with his sister. He feels that their is a lot of hate in their family and that they have raised their children to also hate. He plans on telling her that we do not want our ds exposed to this and that what they do is their business, but we do not want our child exposed to it. Otherwise we would not be able to have ds be around them. And my husband does not want that. I told him I could also go with him; but I am now thinking it may be better if he does this alone with his sister.

As for your FIL moving in, I'd probably have a sit-down with him now to explain how you feel. Get a read for his response so that if necessary you all can look for alternative arrangements.[/QUOTE]

My MIL died a couple of years ago and my FIL is lonely and wasting away. He asked us this year to move in when we finished our place. He says he just wants to die. My dh is adamant that he move in with us. He says that if he needs to talk to him he will do that after he moves in. I really don't think his fil will be a problem; however, I am hoping that after dh talk to his ds that he will then have a talk with his father about what transpired. My dh is struggling with some health problems caused by stress; and I don't want to push that part of it right now. I will talk to him about it after he speaks with his sister.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Sigh, DH's family is like this. Not this bad, but they do use the 'N' word.

They never actually said anything around him, but when DS was an infant MIL said something containing the N word over the phone. and I politely as I could told her, if she is going to use that word around DS then I can't have him around her. She doesn't say it anymore, not around me or DS.


Thanks for your input. I don't know if I can be polite about this. My son is now six years old and I feel that if someone says the N word or something else really racist around my ds, that I need to call them on it in such a way that will let my ds know in no uncertain terms that I find this term etc. very offensive. I was trying to think about what I could say and I was thinking about something like. " I feel offended when you use the word ie) N. to speak about someone. It is a derogatory term that demeans the person and it is important for me to speak up so that ds knows that we find it to be a hurtful word and unacceptable way to talk about someone."

Of course, I am a huge chicken at speaking out - but I really don't want conversation like that to seem common place when I am present to my son. So I think I may try practicing a few times.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
And definitely, speak up at gatherings about how offensive you find their behavior to be! It was hard for me to do this with dp's family at first. But now that I feel I have a voice, events are much more comfortable.


Yes, this will be hard for me; it will be a growth area that I need; but do not really want.

Also, I've honestly done some good. Dp's mom is a lot less racist than she was when we started talking. She realizes now that she is exposed to more of the world that there is another, better way (and also, that racism is "not Christian;" she's very religious and this was an important connection for her).

It sounds like you have been a positive influence on her. It really saddens me that people think that the true spirit of Christianity or any religion equates with racisim. For me the struggle is to not not be as judgmental; as my knee jerk reaction is, against my dh's family because of my spirituality

Anyway, I'm not sure if this helps or not. Yes it does thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
[QUOTE=Evan&Anna's_Mom;14009256]You aren't, of course, going to change their opinions on this. You realize this, yes?

You know, I don't know. I guess part of me is hoping that they will soften somehow. I do believe that if I treat them in the way the emotional part of me wants to treat them that they will not change. I seriously hope they do change. There is always hope isn't there? But do I think it will be because of me? No, but hopefully I won't be an obstacle.

Frankly, I don't think you have any standing to object to "art" installed in a non-public part of the home.

You are probably right. But, I have a really hard time thinking of that sign as art. It seems to me that it belongs in a museum dedicated to the civil rights. It reminds me of some of the things I saw at Dachau a Jewish concentation camp in Germany.

Even in general public view I think the best you might be able to say is "This might be confusing to child, could we move it for the time being?", sort of the same way you might approach an object that might be dangerous to a curious toddler in a non-babyproofed house.

I don't know how to respond to this. You may be right. And I may be too emotional, but to me it is no different than having a rope that was used in a lynching. I am of course coming from my perceived knowledge of their views. But it seems to me to be more than just "confusing to the child." It is about hatred and instead of hiding it away and bringing it out again, I feel like they need to be called on it. But as I write this I ask myself the question. Why is it important to call them on it? What comes to my mind is to not be a bystander that says nothing. I don't know.

The good news is that once your child is old enough to talk about things, you can counter anything said in his presence on the way home. I am hoping that if they are racial or hateful type remarks that we will be able to address them right in front of him. But I realize it is easier saying this when writing at a computer.

A chance comment (even repeatedly) by child's aunt isn't going to color his life values -- your consistant demonstration is.[/QUOTE]. Yes, I only hope that I can be consistent in the moment.
 

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How about posting signs at your front door that make the rules clear like "No racism here" or something along those lines?

We're in a mixed marriage, I'm Latina and he 8th generation Canadian (Caucasian) and just tonight we were talking about how sick it makes me to hear how racist his folks are. It INFURIATES me. I have no qualms with addressing some slur made in front of my daughter to explain to her IN FRONT of them that this is not acceptable language or an acceptable attitude. My DH has actually asked me to bite my tongue...I will not. I'm not going to beat them over the head, yell at them or in any way be disrespectful...but I will not back down from teaching my DD that she is to love every part of herself, and to continue to be open as she is now to every type of person that crosses her path.

You CAN set boundaries, yes they are family but there's give and take. There's nothing you can really do about their beliefs, but when they bring hate with them you can politely tell them to leave it at the door.
 

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I would be concerned about the FIL moving in if there is any kind of cognitive degeneration. There are people that I would have never suspected were racists who lost that filter as they went into older age and suddenly said the most horrifying things. I just wanted you to really look at this before you invite him to live with you. You and your dh might want to discuss how you are going to handle it if this starts to become an issue. (because it is one thing when they still have the ability to control how they behave/what they say because they are much more likely to comply with house rules, but when they lose that ability it can get really rough, especially in the beginning stages when you don't realize that is what is going on.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
We're in a mixed marriage, I'm Latina and he 8th generation Canadian (Caucasian) and just tonight we were talking about how sick it makes me to hear how racist his folks are. It INFURIATES me. I have no qualms with addressing some slur made in front of my daughter to explain to her IN FRONT of them that this is not acceptable language or an acceptable attitude. My DH has actually asked me to bite my tongue...I will not. I'm not going to beat them over the head, yell at them or in any way be disrespectful...but I will not back down from teaching my DD that she is to love every part of herself, and to continue to be open as she is now to every type of person that crosses her path.

You sound like a very strong woman who cares passionately for your daughter. It is amazing the things we are able to find the strength to do for our children.

My dh went and spoke with his ds and while he did not get into it as much as I thought he might. He made it clear that their language was unacceptable around our ds and that we wanted to raise our child to love instead of fear others. She agreed that they have forgotten what it is like to have a young child around and would really watch themselves in front of ds. I must admit it still kind of bugs me that she doesn't seem to really understand the gravity of their hatred and racism; however I am proud of my dh for speaking up for us.

My dh shared that growing up in a household with racist views, it is hard to undue many of these learnings. It surrounds one. I imagine it is very hard for your dh to hear his family speak to you and your daughter that way; he knows it upsets you, I assume that he doesn't agree with them; and yet he may not be ready yet to deal with them. I am sorry that it is so hard for you; it does seem to fall on your shoulders at this time to protect your family.

Jennifer Z I would be concerned about the FIL moving in if there is any kind of cognitive degeneration. There are people that I would have never suspected were racists who lost that filter as they went into older age and suddenly said the most horrifying things. I just wanted you to really look at this before you invite him to live with you.

When I read this; I felt a real sorrow for people who this happens to. What a horrible way to live. Thank you bringing up this possible issue.
 

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I am so sorry you are in this situation. Ugh! I had a similar problem with my ex's family but thankfully they all lived far away. I did throw his sister out of the house for making comments about immigrants once. And his parents have been told that they are only allowed to see the children if they keep thier poisen to themselves. One wrong word and that's it.
I think you need to be clear about what is and isn't acceptable subject matter infront of you and your children. And enforce that. You hear something offensive you take your child and leave/go upstairs and have your husband get them to leave. He can do this politely or explain why as he chooses, but you don't have to deal any more.
Having your FIL move in sounds like a potential mine field. I think you need to make your feelings crystal clear to the whole family and have an open conversation with your FIL well in advance. No hinting - be perfectly clear about what the rules are!
I am usually a total wimp about dealing with people but this was such an important issue for me I was prepared to be fierce! I come from a mixed race family and was lucky enough to never witness any racism as a child. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I realised that there really were racists around in this day and age! I want that for my kids. I want them to find it as incomprehensable and shocking as I did. Or even better - never realise that there are people like that around these days.
 

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I wouldn't allow my racist FIL in live in our basement and I would never leave any of these people alone with my child. Unfortunately, you can't change their way of thinking and have no control of what comes out of their mouths but you can control what kind of time, if any, your precious child spends with them. I would also let your DC know that just because Auntie or Grandpa feels this way does not mean it's right. That kind of behavior and talk is not acceptable in our home or in our society. I feel bad you have to go through this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Quote:

Originally Posted by Rainbow2911 View Post
I come from a mixed race family and was lucky enough to never witness any racism as a child. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I realised that there really were racists around in this day and age! I want that for my kids. I want them to find it as incomprehensable and shocking as I did. Or even better - never realise that there are people like that around these days.
I also come from a mixed race, but I didn't mention this earlier, because I didn't feel it really played a part in my feelings. Growing up I had more of my mother's Irish complexion. I guess I always considered myself caucasian. Now, I notice I am beginning to look more like my father. I never personally experienced racism. But I became aware of it through a film I watched when I was around 12, I think. I was so horrified that people could treat each other that way. So I guess, I also want my child (blonde, freckled face little boy) to have the same experience I had.

However, today I was speaking with a dear friend who comes from a Quaker background. I told her about the situation and about the comments I had received on this site. She had an interesting suggestion. She suggested I take my ds right up to the sign, point it out to him and talk to him about it and what it represents. She says if he asks why it is there I should tell him why I think his aunt and uncle would have it in their house. She also suggested that I could suggest that he ask them why they have it there. Wow! when she said this I felt my stomach tighten. While I think he is too young for this type of conversation - I think it may not be a bad idea at some point. She says this way it is a learning tool. He learns that about history, and that we are vehemently opposed to their way of thinking. He also sees us modelling tolerance for people with other views. Don't know if I could do this - but it is something I will be contemplating. She also asked me if I wanted my son to have my experience "of racism" or his own experience. I realize I really want him to have my experience, but with our relatives, that probably won't be the case.
 

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Quote:

Originally Posted by spicyrock View Post
I grew up in south Georgia, in a big family. My branch of the family is fairly liberal and less overtly racist, but lots of my extended family and dp's family are quite outwardly racist. There was actually a huge blow-out in dp's family just a month ago or so, when dp's little brother started dating an african-american girl. He wanted to take this girl to his senior prom, and his paren't refused to let him go. I was so mad that I offered to by his tickets; that may have been inappropriate but I coudn't stand the thought of seeing that girl's face when he had to back out of his date. Alas, it was too late.

It has taken me a long time to come to terms with these people. In many ways, I love them. They are my family. I know that they are reflections of the world they grew up in. At the same time, I will never be able to live near them again. I want dd to have a relationship with them, but I want it to be mostly a distant, controlled one, where she never sees their ignorance as normal. I want her to know that we don't agree with them- that the world doesn't agree with them- and that we don't take them seriously, because they have no power over us and our beliefs.

op, it is hard to completely write your family out of your life. But you don't have to see them often, or on any terms but your own. And definitely, speak up at gatherings about how offensive you find their behavior to be! It was hard for me to do this with dp's family at first. But now that I feel I have a voice, events are much more comfortable. For one thing, even very racist people realize that their views are not shared by normal society. If they know you aren't part of their backwards world, they'll usually keep their thoughts to themselves.

Also, I've honestly done some good. Dp's mom is a lot less racist than she was when we started talking. She realizes now that she is exposed to more of the world that there is another, better way (and also, that racism is "not Christian;" she's very religious and this was an important connection for her). She wanted to let little bro go to the prom with the girl he chose, but said that discussing it was like starting a world war with dp's dad.

Anyway, I'm not sure if this helps or not.
Wow, I could have written this post. I am from south Alabama. Both sides of my family are extremely racist. I cut myself off from my mom's family for other reasons years ago. But my dad's family and I have always been very close. They helped raise me, I spent my summers there. They are lots of fun to be around. But they are very racist. They spend a lot of time degrading people of other races, using the n-word, etc. Their kids all go to private, all-white schools and my mother was highly criticized for sending me to public school. I have never shared their opinions. But I never realized how offensive they were until I moved away. Now it's very hard to be around them with my children. I limit our visits there. We see them maybe twice a year. I talk to my kids a lot about how wrong their hatred is and how ignorant their views are. My kids don't see it as normal because we live a very diverse lifestyle here with friends from various religious and ethnic backgrounds. My mother also moved away from that area and her views have changed albeit slowly. My family knows how I feel but they don't respect that. It's hard as 1 to argue against 35 so if they get particularly hateful, we go home. Since they don't see us that often knowing that we will leave if the talk becomes racially charged tends to curb a lot of it.

I have to add that I don't tolerate it in my house. My grandmother visited me for several days and used the n-word at the dinner table. I told her that she was free to do whatever she wanted in her own home but I wouldn't tolerate that kind of language and behavior in mine. It never happened again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
It's hard as 1 to argue against 35 so if they get particularly hateful, we go home. Since they don't see us that often knowing that we will leave if the talk becomes racially charged tends to curb a lot of it.
When I read this part of your quote, I realize I really have no idea how someone could argue for racism. It just seems to be such an ignorant and backward way of thinking that I wonder how people actually can justify their beliefs in today's world. However, I see that I am also admitting my ignorance when I say "I don't have a clue." It makes me wonder if this is something I should learn more about so that when/ if I have a conversation with my ds I am able to explain their point of view. Oh, this idea, just gives me a headache. Maybe I am going to far.
 
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