Paul R. Lehman, What’s in a name—the “N” word and Identity

May 4, 2019 at 4:34 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, biological races, black inferiority, blacks, Disrespect, DNA, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, France, identity, immigration, language, Media and Race, Negro, Prejudice, race, Race in America, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, the 'n' word, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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Several years ago I had the occasion to give a lecture to some citizens of a small rural town at the town’s library. An audience of about twenty people attended the lecture and remained for a question and answer session. In responding to a question, I made mention of European Americans and their relation to the question. Soon after I finished my comments, a small, white-haired, senior lady raised her hand, and I acknowledged her. She asked, “What is this European American you talked about?” Smiling at her, I said, “you. You are a European American.” She seemed perplexed, so I explained to her that at one time in America the only people who could become citizens had to identify themselves as either Negro (black) or white. Many immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe did not qualify as either, so they had to use their ethnic identity which set them apart from the so-called whites. In the early 1920s, two Asian men applied for American citizenship and both were denied because the courts said they were neither black nor white. Following the second trial, a Supreme Court justice said that only Europeans could be considered white and they could recognize one from another. One of the consequences of that statement led many immigrants to stop identifying themselves by their ethnicity and just identify themselves as white because it provided elements of social and civic power and prestige.

Still looking somewhat confused, the lady asked, “What is my ethnicity?  I have always been told that I am white.” I asked her where she and her parents were born if not in America. She mentioned that her family had not spoken about being from another country in general but she had heard some references to France and Italy. I mentioned that the term European American provided a more specific identity reference than simply saying white because white does not refer to nationality, country, language, religion, or culture. She thanked me for the explanation.

This incident came to mind when I heard two young African American men talking on Facebook about economic challenges and problems experienced by African Americans and people of color. What caught my attention was their reference to African Americans as “N”. They used it as though it was an accepted and legitimate term with no historical or social significance. Evidently, they assumed that because they were, apparently, men of color their use of the word was okay. Their use of the “N” word actually communicated a number of things that were not positive. They ignored the word’s history, denotation, and connotation, social and cultural significance.

The word Negro comes from the Latin language as an adjective referring to the color black but came to be associated with people from Africa with dark skin complexions. When enslaved Africans were brought to America, they were stripped of their names, language, culture, religion, and personal history. They were forced to accept and adjust to the elements of slavery in America, but most definitely the new language through which they were to be known and referred to as Africans, Negroes, blacks, and slaves. The term Negro was the most commonly used term in America with the spelling and pronunciation varying from the different geographical areas of north and south. The slaves had no choice but to refer to one another as Negro or “N” because that was the only language they were permitted to speak.

Under slavery’s rule in America, the denotation of the word Negro made reference to people, regardless of their skin complexion, who was known to have any African blood. In this context, the reference was made only for identity. However, in the connotation, the word took on a totally different meaning. As a form of projection the “N” personified sexuality, lewdness, laziness, dirtiness, and untamed hostility. In addition, the elements of foul odors, threatening, aggressive and libidinous behavior became associated with the character of the “N” and were perceived by the average European American as normal. Altogether, the concept of excrement came to be associated with the “N” to the point that his social value was equated with it and found to be of lesser value.

Before, and definitely after Reconstruction in America, African Americans have been trying to divorce themselves from the term “N” because it never did, in fact, defined or described them, but was used to enslave them mentally. Society has labeled the “N” word pejorative and socially unacceptable because of its historical significance. However, the word has been given a life-line through entertainment and artistic expressions by some African American performers. Unfortunately, the word does not lose its pejorative quality through continued use and speaks to a sense of historical ignorance or self-deprecation by the users.

An old saying advises that one cannot throw dirt on others without getting some on one’s self. This saying works equally with the use of the “N” word because it reflects on the character of the users by questioning their self-perception and their judgment of others they associate with the word. The objective of the slave masters in imposing the “N” word on people of color was to force them to see themselves through the biased eyes of the slave masters, not their own eyes. So, for as long as the people of color continue using the master’s language relative to themselves, they will remain mentally enslaved and unable to see who they really are.

If the “N” word did not carry negative social value in society then its use would not be in question. But it does still carry negative value. So, one wonders why two intelligent young African American males would constantly use the “N” word to their audiences unless they do not realize that by doing so they are showing disrespect to themselves and their audience. With all the demographic changes taking place in the world, and especially in America today, and with many people discovering their ancestral roots, one would think that constant reference to the past via a derogatory term would be counterproductive. The continued use of the “N” word seems to suggest that some people of color want to remain mentally enslaved or do not want to know their true identity.

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Paul R. Lehman, Parents of mixed-race children that offer advice to Prince Harry and Meghan are bigotry blind

April 12, 2019 at 11:58 pm | Posted in African American, African American celebrities, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, biological races, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, Genealogy,, Human Genome, identity, interpretations, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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Have you ever had the opportunity to learn a life lesson by accident without it costing you anything? Back when I was in the eighth grade, I was sitting in my social studies classroom one afternoon, waiting for class to begin when all of a sudden a loud disturbance came rushing to the front of the room—two of my male classmates were involved in fisticuffs. Our teacher, Mrs. Kelly, quickly put a stop to this display and ordered the two young men to her desk. The students were Bill and Allen and as far as anyone in the class knew, they were friends; they sat next to one another. Mrs. Kelly looked at the two students and asked the obvious question: what happened to cause this disruption?

Allen spoke first and said that Bill had insulted his mother by calling her a bad name. Bill had called her an ugly whore. Mrs. Kelly turned her eyes on Bill and asked if that was correct. He answered yes. She then looked at Allen and surprisingly asked him if it was true, was his mother an ugly whore? Allen became somewhat flustered but blurted out—no, not at all! She then turned back to Bill and asked why he had referred to Allen’s mother in such a manner. Allen said that Bill and said something that angered him, so he just said something to him to get even, and that was when Allen hit him.

Mrs. Kelly looked at both students and asked Bill if he knew Allen’s mother. He said no. She then asked if he had ever seen Allen’s mother. Again, he said no. She spoke to Allen and asked if he knew that Bill did not know nor had not even seen his mother. Allen answered yes, he knew that.  She then asked, “Why were you fighting when both of you knew that what was said was not true?” She looked at Allen and asked “How could Bill insult your mother when he does not know her, and why you would punch him for saying something that you knew was not true? Can you understand the foolishness of your actions? They both nodded in the affirmative. She then told them to look at each, apologize for acting so foolishly and get back to their seats. As they were heading back to their seats, she said for the entire class to hear: “next time you want to react foolishly to something that was said to or about you, stop, use your brain and think.” I got the message.

What brought this childhood memory to my attention was an article by Sonia Smith-Kang, in The Washington Post, (4/8/2019) about Harry and Meghan having a biracial child. The article began with this statement: “The pregnancy announcement from Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, sent the multiracial community into proud cyber-auntie and -uncle mode. We are so excited to welcome one more into our fold as we continue the distinction of being one of the fastest-growing populations, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”The article is written by someone who identifies as a biracial person and attempts to relate with Harry and Meghan since they are expecting a baby who she believes will be biracial.

The focus of the article was to give some advice, hints, and suggestions to Harry and Meghan relative to raising their so-called biracial child. While the multiracial community and their comments were given in good faith and positive intent, they all fail to recognize one primary fact—they all possess unseen bigotry. How can that be? The answer lies in the community’s acceptance of the concept of race, especially by color, as legitimate and valid. They either do not know or choose to ignore the fact that race is a social invention and only one species of human beings exist on the planet, Homo sapiens. So, when people self-identify as biracial, mixed race or multiracial they are saying that they are only a part human being. One wonders what other species contribute to their make-up.

When people intentionally decide to identify themselves using race as a component in that identity such as biracial, mixed race, multiracial, they are in fact supporting, maintaining and promoting ethnic bigotry. Since race is a social invention and is based on skin color, we know that in America ethnic bigotry is part of the white supremacy concept. People who self-identify as biracial, mixed race and multiracial all accept the concept of white racial supremacy or there would be no value in their use of race.

All human beings belong to an ethnic group rather than the generally misused term race. Race has no scientific bases; a black race and white race does not exist. As a matter of fact, all human being are brown, including the extremes that are usually identified as black and white. Ethnic identity is based on geography and culture which includes language, religion, and customs. Biology has no involvement in ethnicity, but while many ethnic groups intermarry only the ones that accept the value of a white race use race as part of their identity. European Americans usually do not think of themselves as belonging to a race, but as the model of the human race.

Although the information provided by this group of self-identified mixed-race people appears helpful and thoughtful, it is very dangerous and harmful in that it isolates the mixed-race child from the population of human beings and treats the child as an alien. A person’s identity is based on his or her nationality, and nationality is based on geography and culture, not biology. Harry and Meghan’s child’s identity will be based on its nationality, not the cultural or ethnic identity of either parent. Even if that was the case, just what does an American and Englander look like? Forcing a child to view itself through the eyes of a race-biased culture would do extreme harm to its psyche.

The danger of a race-based concept comes from the association with social radicals such as the White Nationalist, the Aryan Nation, the Ku Klux Klan, and others hate groups that ignore the science that debunks the concept of race by color. Sharing the same or similar philosophy as hate groups serve to aid and abet them. Get the message!

 

Paul R. Lehman, Talking to kids about race should be a thoughtful, truthful, and rewarding undertaking for the kids

February 8, 2019 at 12:53 pm | Posted in African American, African American hair, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, black inferiority, blacks, Declaration of Independence, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, DNA, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, integregation, justice, language, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, public education, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, The Oklahoman, tolerance, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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An interesting and troubling article, “Diversity discussion: How to talk to kids about race,” by Melissa Erickson, (The Oklahoman 1/28/2019) appeared in the paper recently and caught my attention because of the topic and the subject mentioned. The first concern was the activity suggested that someone—talk to kids about race. The problem with that activity depends on several things:  the teacher must be someone familiar with race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality; the ethnicity of the students to receive the information, and the approach to discussing the subject. A closer examination of this article was necessary.

A six-year-old boy came home from school one afternoon and surprised his mother with the question, “are you white”? The irony in the question was the fact that his mom’s maiden name was White, so she had to ask him to be more specific. Since he did not have a grasp of the significance of “white” viewed as an ethnic identity, the mother took the time to explain that she was not white and that a person’s skin complexion does not determine an identity unless he or she believes in myths.  Since mothers are their children’s primary teachers caution must be taken in discussing the subject of race with children because the manner in which the information is presented can, and in many cases, affect the children’s psyche in a positive or negative way.

If the teacher or individual introducing the subject of race to children or anyone for that matter, is not knowledgeable regarding race, ethnicity, culture, and nationality then whatever information given the children will be questionable. The most important decision the teacher must make is whether to discuss race as a myth, or race as a reality, or race as a myth viewed as reality. The results of the teacher’s choice will have a lasting effect on the children’s psyche and how they see themselves as well as how they see others, and how others see them.

Serious challenges accompany each of the choices in that the invention/occurrence of race in American society must be presented and justified. If race is viewed as a myth, then its continuation in society is a problem that society must address until the facts become the guiding principle of its use. All myths can be replaced with facts, but not all people will freely accept the facts. The fact about race is that only one exist, the human race. The benefit in presenting race as the myth it is serves to discount all the derivatives associated with race like racism, racial, biracial, etc….

If race is discussed as a reality then the subjects of its derivatives must also be presented which would include bigotry, prejudice, segregation, discrimination, and integration all of which introduce the overarching topic of European American (white) supremacy. The effect that discussing European American (white)supremacy can have on children was noted in the article: “Studies from the 1940s demonstrated that black American children [African American] as young as 3 associated more negative characteristics :(”bad,” “ ugly,”) to dolls with darker skin and more positive attributes to dolls with light skin and blue eyes (“pretty, “good” ).” So, teaching information about race as a reality would produce a negative affect on how children view themselves and others based on their skin complexion. The teacher would also be tasked with justifying the system of European American (white) supremacy in its many manifestations, especially, European American (white) privileges.

If race is discussed as a myth viewed as reality then the teacher has the responsibility to acknowledge the difference between the two and deliberately choose the way of hypocrisy. In other words, if the teacher knows that race is not biological but chooses to ignore that fact and discuss the myth as reality then a gross disservice is committed against the children and society.  The teacher’s decision to follow the myth as reality involves viewing American society as two-sided—one side that wants and fights from the democratic principles imbedded in the Constitution and Declaration, and one side that is bigoted, self-centered, and controlling using a philosophy of ethnic supremacy  favoring European Americans. Although the teacher’s intentions might be seemingly good, the effect of teaching young children about race, diversity, and tolerance would condition their young minds to look for differences in each other that are man-made and minor while avoiding the majority of things they have in common that are good and biological.

When race is taught so is bigotry because it unites and divides—us and them. One cannot avoid the facts of American slavery and ethnic diversity that accompanies a discussion on race. How would the teacher explain the actions of a Christian society that dehumanized people of color by enslaving them and then blaming their enslavement on the color of their skins? How would the teacher prevent the European American children from feeling guilty for the treatment of the slaves by their ancestors? How would the teacher underscore to the children the objective of teaching diversity that should seek to unite all people as one human family and not individual biologically races, while focusing primarily on their differences? The article noted Darnise C. Martin’s comment that “Conversations can be had about dolls, hair, superheroes and just generally helping children know that they are not any less because of skin color.” The problem with that comment is the underling assumption that race is acceptable and tolerable, but can be explained to the children without any psychological effects.

What happens at time when certain subjects are considered for discussions is that little effort is given to defining the terms to be used in and during the discussion because the assumption is that everybody already knows the meanings. Too often we act as though we do not see or realize the bigoted side of American society while we are enacting laws and policies that do just that. For example, sub-standard schools did not appear by accident nor were they invented by African Americans. The history of the African American and other people of color have never been a regular part of the public school curriculum, only Western civilization’s story. So why would we want to continue to promote a history of race to young children that would continue to promote, maintain, and protect bigotry?

So, what are we suppose to do? Why not just tell the truth about race being a myth and know that as long as we act like it is real, it will appear to be so, and in spite of the fact that our DNA says we are more alike than penguins? However, the minute we decide to focus on truth and facts, the myth will begin to deconstruct.

Paul R. Lehman, Replacing the concept of race with reality in five extremely challenging and life-changing steps

November 28, 2018 at 4:16 pm | Posted in African American, American history, American Indian, American Racism, Bible, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, criminal justice, democracy, discrimination, DNA programs, education, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, Genealogy,, Human Genome, identity, immigration, justice, lower class, Prejudice, public education, Public housing, race, respect, skin color, skin complexion, social conditioning, social justice system, whites | 1 Comment
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Although it might seem strange today, people initially thought that the earth was flat, and not a sphere. Around the year 500 A.D., a Greek named Pythagoras introduced the concept of the earth being a sphere, but people paid little notice until Aristotle, some two-hundred years later, 330 A.D., promoted the same concept. People were not eager to give up the concept of a flat earth. Even places in the Christian Bible show evidence of the concept of the earth being flat. Eventually, the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan among others provided proof of the planet is a sphere. The acceptance of this fact brought with it a necessary change in the way earth was viewed. The concept of the flat earth was not destroyed or changed; it was replaced with scientific facts.

The point of the concept of a flat earth being replaced by the concept of a round one underscored the importance of fact and evidence in the process. Today, we have a similar situation before us with respect to the concept of race by color or geography that no longer has rational or realistic basics. Replacing this concept of race is extremely challenging because of the rewards associated with the identity of one group—European Americans. The problem exists because America’s Founding father invented and instituted a system of a race by color with two colors, black and white, playing major roles. Society was conditioned and forced to view the Anglo-Saxons (whites) as superior to all other races regardless of color, but especially the people of African descent. The concept of race by color became over several hundred years to be accepted as normal although it was constantly challenged because of its basic flaws.

Nevertheless, people of all persuasions accepted the concept and wrote about it like it was valid and factual. At one point in 1883, the term eugenics was coined by a British scientist who led the attempt to develop a super race. Fortunately, those efforts failed, but the studies continued until today the results of a study, the Human Genome Project, involving DNA revealed that all human beings are 99.09% alike. Many people do not want to accept the scientific evidence that proved the concept of race by color to be bogus. So, how does one go about replacing the concept of race by color to one of reality?

The very first step is to recognize that the concept of race by color is a myth, that all human beings belong to the same race; that all human being are a shade of brown, not black and white; that intelligence and character cannot be based on skin color. Because most, if not all of these things, have been a part of the national conscientiousness for centuries, recognizing them as false cannot happen easily. For some people, it is asking too much regardless of the facts and evidence that view race as not factual or valid. All people must be seen and accepted as part of the human family without anyone ethnic group being superior or inferior to any other.

The second step is to accept the fact that all Americans have been socially conditioned to accept the concept of race by color as normal and natural and before any positive progress can be made, this concept must be rejected and replaced with factual truths. This second step is extremely difficult because while some Americans can see prejudice and bigotry in others, they cannot or do not see it in themselves. That is why the first step is necessary. People who refer to themselves or others as black or white do not realize that in using those terms they are connecting with the past and the concept of race by color. The concept of race has to be replaced with ethnic group or ethnicity in order to not get caught in the trap seeing race by color. The identity of European Americans can no longer include the color white because white is simply the adjective preceding the noun race.

The third step involves a commitment to promote the concept of the human family that includes all ethnic groups, including European Americans as a part of that family. In other words, we recognize, respect and accept Americans with cultural differences from our own. We realize that just because our ethnic identity is different from some other ethnic group that does not give us the right to treat them differently and judges them as not being our equals. If we are all Americans, then everyone should expect and receive fairness and legal justice before the law. Unfortunately, America has not conditioned us to think and act that way. So, the commitment includes recognizing and working towards correcting the problems created by the concept of race by color. For example, the problem of voting rights, the problem of incarceration of the poor, the problem of substandard schools, the problem substandard housing, the problem of low paying jobs, the problem of law enforcement ’s bias against people of color. In other words, working towards correcting problems that affect all Americans, but that has been aimed primarily at the poor and people of color.

The fourth step involves a degree of self-discipline that keeps us from losing focus on our objective—replacing the concept of race. We have all been conditioned by our society, and especially by our concept and interpretation of our history. Our demographics are rapidly changing and having a great impact on society, so we need to remember America’s mantra: “e Pluribus Unum”—from many one. Unity must be our focus and objective.

The fifth step is the need to recognize and accept consistency in our thoughts and actions. Replacing the conception of race from what we were conditioned to believe to the reality of what we face in society today is a tremendous undertaking. When Joseph J. Ellis, a best-selling historian was asked the question:” What is the biggest failing of the Founders that still haunts us today?”He answered that “When the Founders talked about ‘we the people,’ they were not talking about black people. They weren’t talking about women, and they weren’t talking about Native Americans. Whenever race enters the question, the Founders are going to end up disappointing you.”

Replacing race with reality –an acceptance of all human beings as a family that is based on facts is the way society will move into a positive future.

Paul R. Lehman, Bigotry in our language is a not so hidden secret we can afford to ignore

September 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, African American hair, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Constitutional rights, criminal justice, Declaration of Independence, discrimination, DNA, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, Human Genome, identity, justice, justice system, language, law, Media and Race, minorities, Negro, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, social justice system, socioeconomics, white supremacy, whites | 2 Comments
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The objective from the very beginning was division and on a permanent basis as the reason the founding fathers invented two races, a black and a white. Unlike the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution that said we are one people, the concept of race has kept us separate and unequal. Subsequently, if we continue believing in the concept of races we will continue to be separate and never fulfill the objective of our democracy. If we are to ever have one nation, we will have to change the way to look, speak, and act towards one another. We also need to understand that the language we use helps to keep us separate. For example, as long as some people view themselves as black and white, they will not come together because of the historical significance of those words. They were meant to keep us apart.

Many well-meaning civic groups actually work against themselves by choosing a name that creates a negative and defensive feeling in others towards them. Take, for example, Black Lives Matter, a group that has an objective that is in keeping with the concept of democracy, but because of the word black in the name, it creates a defensive reaction in the minds of many European Americans.

We also have groups that use words like white, Aryan and caucasian that they believe makes them different from people who do not look like them. Their pronounced goal is to save or preserve the so-call white race. They need to visit history to learn what happens to people who are separated or separate themselves from other people; they become extinct, like for example, the Australian Tasmanian Aboriginals, and in America, the Eire people and the colony of Roanoke.

When civic activists call for unity among people of color, they miss the opportunity to enhance their programs by not inviting all concerned people. We as a society have been conditioned to identify ourselves based on our so-called differences when our objective should be for all to use the same identity. We are all Americans, so why is it necessary to use color or ethnicity as part of identity? When visitors come to America, they come using their cultural identity. When Americans get a passport they provide a picture, but no racial or ethnic identity, because our cultural identity is American, not black or white, Hispanic or Asian etc.

We do ourselves a constant disservice by identifying ourselves as separate groups which have been our legacy since slavery. We have to grasp the reality of our situation understanding that the concept of biological races is a myth, invention, social construction, and lie. Prior to the Human Genome Project, everything about races with the numerous divisions, classifications, and characteristics was conjecture and opinion. We now have scientific proof, validation, and evidence that all human beings are more alike than penguins, and the skin complexion, eye shape and color, and hair texture are not unique to a select group of human beings. We are of one race of beings whether we like it or not.

We might think that language does not play so great a part in our lives and our behavior, but studies old and recent underscore the fact that when the words black and white are used in a sentence referring to an identity, a measured reaction occurs. The reaction for the European American, usually an increased heartbeat, is observed when the word black is used because of the social conditioning associated with the word. African Americans do not experience a similar reaction when the word white appeared in a sentence because they are conditioned to seeing it and without feeling threatened.

The media in American society contributes greatly to the separation of ethnic groups by the way they use inappropriate identity language. For example, if a bank is robbed and the robber was apprehended, nothing pertaining to the robbery is gained when the ethnicity of the robber is identified. Except, in American society today the identity of the robber is omitted if he or she happens to be European American, but the identity is almost always given when the robber ‘s identity is a person of color. The effect of the naming the identity of the ethnic person serves to strengthen the negative stereotype society already has of the person of color.

Another way in which the media contributes to the negative stereotypes and biased attitudes held by some Americans relative to people of color has to do with the mentioning of the geographic location of an incident that is readily identified as being in a location where predominately people of color reside. Again, the mere mention of the location adds to the negative stereotype held by many people familiar with the location.

Today, with all the problems America is facing relative to our government and the various policies being addressed both positively and negatively, we need to take the opportunity to add our concept of race and identity into the mix and deal with it once and for all. We continue to talk about racism as if it was legitimate rather than bigotry which is what has been and continues to be practiced in society. Yes, our language uses the word racism to talk about social biases, but simultaneously serves to keep the concept of races alive and our society separate. We need to decide what kind of society we want to live in as well as our children and grandchildren. Once we make that choice, we need to get to work and make it happen. We have been talking about racism for three hundred years to no avail because we are still talking about it without a change in the daily behaviors of people. Racism is not the problem, we are because we refuse to accept the fact that we have been living in a false reality. What we cannot continue pretending to not see is the rapidly changing demographics that will force changes in society relative to cultural and ancestral identities.

We currently have an opportunity to make great strides in addressing our oneness as a society by debunking the myth of race and working to make America what it was meant to be a democracy. We will not and cannot get to where we want, and need, to be if we do not change from using our misleading ethnically biased language of bigotry.

Paul R. Lehman, Everyday bigotry and the language of social control

August 25, 2018 at 1:18 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, Congress, education, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Hair, identity, justice, language, lower class, Media and Race, minorities, minority, political power, politicians, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, whites | Leave a comment
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Everyday bigotry is basically a normal day in America. What makes it normal is that it is part of the fabric of American society that hides beneath the veneer of the idea of democracy. Social conditioning is a process that occurs when someone is born into a culture or adopts a culture and experiences that culture on a daily basis. The characteristics of that culture are acquired through living with and among the people in that society. The standards and values, customs and practices that are part of that society are not usually questioned or challenged by the people, but accepted as being correct and normal. So, when the system of Anglo-Saxon (European American) supremacy was instituted into society using language that identified two major races, black and white, with white as superior and black as inferior, no one questioned or challenged it. The Africans could not challenge the biased concept because they were powerless; the European Americans did not challenge it because they invented it. The power and control of society was derived through the language the people used and trusted.

The power and control of society through language can be demonstrated in the concept of physical beauty. The European Americans established themselves and their physical qualities as representative of the normal human being. In addition to making themselves the model of humanity, they also placed the highest social value on their features, especially their skin complexion. Therefore, anyone that looked like the European American was viewed as valued more than the people of color, especially the African Americans that did not look European. The slave masters and owners began early in the system of slavery to exploit the European physical features and the degree of so-called European (white) blood reported in the slaves as a profit builder. What they did was give names to slaves supposedly having degrees of European blood, names to underscore that degree. So, for example, if a slave was said to have a European American father and an African mother, he or she would be called a mulatto; this designation would allow the slave seller to ask more money for the slave over one with no or less European American blood; the greater the percentage of European blood, the higher the slave’s value.

What this practice did in addition to bringing in more money to the slave owner was to give the slaves with a degree of European American blood a sense of being valued over the slaves without noticeable European American blood. The reality was that regardless the amount of European American blood the slaves had, they were still slaves. In addition, the language told the African American slaves that they were ugly, black and dirty; that their hair was bad because it was kinky, nappy, curly and short. Possessing these physical characteristics, the African slaves knew that being beautiful was impossible for them. However, after slavery, some African Americans believed that acquiring some of the features of the European American might increase their social value. The language as a tool had convinced them to accept the European American standard of beauty as part of a social value system.

One of the wealthiest women in America in the late 1800’s was Madam C. J. Walker who happened to be an African American. Although she made many significant contributions to African American causes during her lifetime, the fact was that she acquired her wealth by exploiting the self-denigration of many men and women of color who wanted to improve their appearance. Even today we see primarily women of color whose natural hair color is dark brown or black with blond hair or undergoing cosmetic surgery on their eyes, noses and mouth in an effort to approximate the European American look of beauty. This attention to physical appearance is due to the influence of the language that causes some Americans of color to question their sense of self and their concept of beauty.

Although the Black Power movement focused on changing the stigma associated with the word black, one of the important and consequential changes to occur was the African Americans view of self and a challenge to the European American standard of beauty. Because they could see themselves as beautiful in the natural, they became free to express that freedom in any way they desired. One result of African Americans’  freedom of expression of their natural beauty was the European Americans’ efforts to adopt aspects of it.

What Americans should understand is that the language we use if not challenged will continue to control us. The language control manifests itself in the actions and reactions of European Americans as well as African Americans. For example, when the word minorities is used by European Americans it is not defined, but has inferred connotations.  So, who are the minorities referred to in the usage of the word? Americans generally assume that the word refers to all ethnic groups of color that reflect a smaller population than European Americans.  Another suggestion that is inferred in the use of the word minorities is the deference to a majority population as being superior, not necessarily numerically, but in influence and power. How will the word be interpreted when the European Americans numerically becomes the numerical minority in the foreseeable future? Will they still be referred to as the majority because of their power and influence? In any event, because the word is not defined, the meaning is never concrete and often seen as derogatory.

With respect to language being viewed as derogatory, President Barack Obama during his last days in office signed into law H.R. 4238 stating that the federal government will no longer use the terms Negro, Oriental, and Minorities in federal writing. The passing of this measure was a rare show of bipartisan  support by the House of Representatives and the Senate. The fact that America is constantly changing demographically demands that we pay attention to how the language is used as a tool for social control as well for as liberation. Just like our demographics change, so does our language with new words coming into usage while some words no longer serve a useful purpose because they are not accurate and are no longer socially acceptable.

Paul R. Lehman, The power of language continues to enslave American society

August 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Posted in Africa, African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, Civil Right's Act 1964, democracy, desegregation, discrimination, education, employment, entitlements, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, fairness, Genealogy,, identity, integregation, justice, language, law, lower class, Media and Race, minority, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, social conditioning, socioeconomics, Stokely Carmichael, the 'n' word, the Black Codes, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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One of the constant conundrums challenging America today is race; the reason for it being constant is because while we experience and observe it, we can only describe it, not defines it. We cannot define race because it is a concept based on conjecture and myths.  Since the Greeks and Romans did not know why the sun rose and set every twenty-four hours, they made up a story about it. The story had some facts in it relative to the movement of the sun, but the facts were surrounded by fiction. Apparently, they thought that Apollo drove his chariot around the heavens riding up to the center of the sky in the morning, and down to the horizon at night. Fortunately, scientists came along to give more precise information about the sun and its relations to the earth. Today, the world knows the actual movement of the sun as well as the other celestial bodies in the universe and no longer need to invent myths. Unfortunately, we have not arrived at that point with the use of the term race. The myth continues because we have not decided to rid ourselves of its power to control our mind and bodies.

Language is the most important tool used in transmitting not only information but also a controlling influence over society. When the slave masters took away the slaves’ identity, history, and culture, they forced on the slaves a language that was meant to keep them enslaved. The language was such an important tool that the slaves were forbidden to learn to read and write it. The punishment for anyone caught teaching a slave to read or write were heavy fines, whippings, or imprisonment, depending on the state in which it occurred. The slave owners knew that language as a tool could be used to control minds, but they also knew that it could also be used to liberate minds as well.

One way in which language was used to control society was when it constantly reminded European Americans that they were superior to all people of color, and it reminded people of color that they were inferior to European Americans. Once the captive Africans arrived in America and were stripped of their identities and past; they were forced to accept the reality of slavery. The language they used always pictured them as inferior and European Americans as powerful, privileged, and in total control of society. The African captives knew that they were not Negroes, blacks, or other terms associated with their identity, but they were defenseless to do anything about it for fear of repercussions, including death. After years of social conditioning in which the language constantly reminded the African Americans that they were Negroes, blacks, colored, and a host of other denigrating terms, their actual identity became less of a concern than their civil rights as citizens.

In the early 1960’s language was used as a tool for protest by African Americans who combined identity with the fight for civil rights with the phrase “Black Power.”  Africans were forced to wear the identity of black from the beginning of American slavery and it was used as a derogatory and denigrating term. Even African Americans used the term as derogatory within the African American community. However, when the phrase “Black Power” was used by Stokely Carmichael during a 1960’s civil rights rally, it gained legs and moved throughout the national African American community as well as society at large via music and media. The reference to “black” was used to engender a new sense of pride and positive value to what was once viewed as insulting and denigrating to African Americans. The power of language to influence worked to change the negative concept of blackness as an identity for African Americans to one of positivity, pride, and beauty.

While the language shift worked to provide a new sense of self for the African Americans relative to a black identity, it accomplished little for the European American since no change occurred in their conception and use of the word black as derogatory. The major misconception of the African American community nationally was that the word black would somehow be transformed to represent a new identity. The problem with that happening is that the space the word black occupied in the language could and would not be replaced simply by repetition. Although European Americans could use the word white for their identity, it carried no negative connotations, just the opposite.  Many Europeans abandoned their cultural identity to accept the white identity because of the power and prestige it provided them. African Americans because they did not use their cultural or ancestral identities were forced to be identified as blacks and Negroes. Two reasonable identity choices are African American or people of color, but only for ancestral identities. The cultural identity has always been American.

Many people of color in America accept the word black as a form of identity without realizing that the words black and white are adjectives, not nouns; that is, as nouns they represent colors, but as adjectives, they usually precede the noun race. Therefore, if the word black is used as a noun, it serves no purpose as an identity because it represents no cultural or ancestral ethnicity. If the word black is used as an adjective proceeding race, then the identity is based on a false concept of a black race that is viewed as a monolith which is also incorrect. In other words, the use of the slave masters’ language still represents some control over society’s identities.

The late Malcolm X learned that language as a social tool could provide an element of power and influence. So, he worked hard to become proficient in the use of language, and as a result was able to educate, enlighten, inform, irritate, and intimidate his audiences. Partly due to his early death he had not gained the level of understanding that would have helped to unlock the door of ignorance relative to how language managed to retain control of the concept of race. He did, however, recognized that the identity given the African captives upon their arrival was not their true identity and so he rejected his family name (usually taken from the slaves’ former owner or master) and replaced it with the letter X which is symbolic for the unknown.  American society’s challenge now is to recognize how language has been used to control us so we can set about the business of freeing ourselves. We cannot resolve a problem if we do not recognize that it exists.

 

Paul R. Lehman,How and why bigotry persist in America

August 14, 2018 at 2:49 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, black inferiority, blacks, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, identity, justice, language, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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An adage frequently heard is “we can’t see the forest for the trees,” serves as an appropriate description of the problem of bigotry in America. A closer look at how and why bigotry persists in America should give us a better overall perspective.

When the enslaved Africans were brought to America, they were human beings with names, cultures, histories, and languages. Once they arrived, the first order of business for the slave masters and owners was to rid them of the only tangible possessions they had, their names. A person’s name is very important because it makes him or her unique, even if the same is the same as others people because each human being is unique. Without a name, we would seemingly not exist simply because no one would know us and so they could not make reference to us because we had no name. So, the first thing the slave masters did was to dehumanize the Africans by taking away their names.

Although a person’s name might not seem that important, it is because included in the name is the person’s history. When a person’s name is taken away, so is his or her history because nothing is available to identify and connect a nameless person with other people. The importance of names and the history they represent are underscored, for example, in the Mexican custom of two given names followed by the father’ and mother’s name. The person’s full name is used, generally, only for legal purposes. Naming children in families after other family members as well as a host of other reasons is common practice today, but when the captured Africans were brought to America, their names were taken away. In place of the names taken, the slaves were renamed by the slave masters, but with only one name. Giving the slaves one name served to prevent them from possessing anything that could be passed along to children. So, a new history was begun for each African captive with the renaming and everything unique and personal relating to their original history was gone. The new names such as slave, negro or black provided no personal identity or significance aside from the connection to the system of American slavery.

The next important element the slave masters and owners took away from the African captives was their language; they were no longer permitted to speak in their native language. The purpose of this action was to prevent the African captives from being able to communicate with fellow countrymen because the ability to communicate with another human being provides a feeling of personal value and worth which also underscores a positive identity. For the slave masters, the process of remaking the African captives could not allow for anything that would give them hope or reference to a former life.

In addition to eliminating the African captives’ ability to speak in their native tongue, the slave masters knew that by preventing any reference to their former language the captives would also lose their culture. The culture of a people is embodied in their language, so when the language is removed, so too is the former culture. So, the process of enslavement is not reserved to the physical body, but also to the mind. Unfortunately for the captives, the mind was as important to the slave masters as the body.

When the African captives were enslaved, they lost their physical freedom; they lost their personal identification; they lost their history, their culture and their language. They were stripped of everything of value to a human being. The slave masters knowing that they must have complete control of the enslaved immediately began the process of conditioning them to a new world. To begin the process, each slave was shown through brute force and intimidation (chains, shackles, and physical abuse) that they were not free. Then they were given names they had to accept and respond to when ordered, and a new language they must learn. The key element of control was transmitted in and through the slave masters’ language.

The primary function of the new language was to inculcate in the minds of the African slaves the system of Anglo-Saxon (white) supremacy. Therefore, as long as the language goes unchallenged the system will remain intact and the minds of American society will continue to be affected by the social conditioning of bigotry. The slaves had to learn to view all Anglo-Saxons (white), and European Americans as the people who controlled their lives as well as their deaths (not natural); that everything relative to them was considered normal; that they represented the normal human being and as such set the standards for life in American society. The things that gave the Anglo-Saxons, and European Americans the power and privileges aside from the laws they instituted, was their skin complexion and the language.

The language informed the African slaves that they were less than human beings; in fact, they were no higher than the animals. The language informed them that their black skin color was frightening, ugly, dirty, and smelly and more like that of the apes than humans. The language told them that their facial features were ugly and biologically not the same as the Anglo-Saxons’ beauty. The African slaves were forced to accept or appear to accept these conditions whether they believed them or not.

Once physical slavery ended, the language, as well as the system of supremacy continued. As late as 150 years ago, an article appeared in the Nation magazine written by Taylor Lewis that made mention of the language and its continued effect of dehumanizing the African American: “Even when we advocate the cause of the African, we do it in a manner that would be though insulting and utterly undemocratic in any other case. We use the language of masters and owners.” He added that “The way in which we speak to the colored man, and of the colored man, shows an unconscious yielding to the anti-christian prejudice we are striving to overcome.”So, the purpose and power of the language have never been a secret to many European Americans, but seemingly, remains to be one for many African American.

The system of European American, Anglo-Saxon (white) supremacy and African American inferiority continues to manifest its presence in the language. Real social progress will begin when we as a society learn to communicate with one another in an unbiased language.

 

Paul R. Lehman, A suggestion of how Rachel Dolezal can resolve her problem of a black/African American identity

May 19, 2018 at 12:26 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, DNA, education, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, identity, interpretations, liberty, minority, passing, race, Race in America, racism, skin color, skin complexion, Slavery, tolerance, white supremacy, whites | Leave a comment
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All the criticism, complaints, and negative comments about Rachel Dolezal need to stop because she has the right to live her life as she chooses. However, we need to clarify her position and those of her critics so an understanding of this situation can be fully realized. In a recent article by Clarence Page (The Oklahoman, 5/12/2018), the title asks the question: “Why Rachel Dolezal still tries to bend racial rules” relative to the defense of her black identity. The article is basically a review of the movie, “The Rachel Divide,” which Page describes as a “Netflix documentary on which director Laura Brownson began to work shortly after the scandal broke [and it] peels away more layers of that mystery by giving us a closer look at Dolezal’s troubled family and upbringing.” He added that “It may not answer all of the questions as to why she wanted so desperately to be black, but it offers a more complete picture of the life she was trying to escape, along with the social construct of race as the rest of us know it.”More than likely, the movie adds more confusion to Dolezal’s situation and to that of her critics because of one simple word—race.

The problem of Ms. Dolezal’s critics is that they have fallen victim to accepting the concept of race as valid and accurate and because of this acceptance they view everything through a black and white lens. The problem with Dolezal is that she also has fallen victim to accepting the concept of a black race and a white race. Confusion relative to race exists on both sides– Dolezal’s and her critics because they both accept the concept of race by color as valid. Race as Page mentioned is a social construct; i.e., a myth.

When the captured Africans were brought to America, one of the first orders of business for the masters was to take away any sense or feeling of self-worth or value. That was accomplished by taking away their personal identity and providing them with a new identity. The effect of calling the Africans blacks or negroes, which means black, was to deprive them not only of their cultural and ancestral identity but also of their history. By referring to the African captives as blacks or negroes, their history begins with their experience as slaves.

The constructing of a black and a white race by the founding fathers was the basis of what is known as the system of white (European American) supremacy, a system that has the European Americans view themselves as the most important people on the planet. American society supported the supremacy concept by having all the social institutions comply with that concept. Consequently, many Americans believe the concept of a black and a white race to be true. Two facts about the concept of race remain: one, race by color has never been defined; second, race by color cannot be defined because the colors are not consistent or definite (fixed). Therefore, the system of European American supremacy can only exist by law, or agreement, voluntary or forced. According to recent scientific findings, all human beings belong to the same family or race known as Homo Sapiens; no other race of human beings exist on the planet.

The problem, as well as the confusion regarding Dolezal and her critics, is that both sides accept the black/white race concept as legitimate. Both sides are wrong in their thinking about race. The point that needs to be underscored in this matter is that all human beings have two identities—one cultural, one ancestral. The cultural identity is the one that the individual selects, usually based on the culture and/or geographic location in which they lived or were born into. An example shows the difference as when a person who, for example,  was born and raised in Haiti immigrated to America and became a citizen. That person’s cultural identity would be American with no reference to skin color or any other physical characteristics; that person’s ancestral or ethnic identity would be Haitian. If that Haitian person married an American and a child was born to them, the child’s cultural identity would be American, with no reference to skin color; however, the child’s ancestral or ethnic identity would be Haitian and American to reflect the identities of both parents. The ancestral identity is not usually viewed as a necessary or primary part of a person’s cultural identity. For example, when a person of color comes to America, only their cultural identity is necessary such as German, English, French, Nigerian, Egyptian, and Jamaican etc.

Dolezal’s problem with her identity is based on her reference to an ancestral identity that does not exist for her since both her biological parents are Americans of European heritage. As long as she identifies herself as an American, regardless of the ethnic cultural she chooses, she should have few conflicts. However, because she wants to identify her cultural identity which is American, as an ancestral identity, which to her is black/African American, a problem is created with the critics who realize that that identity would be false.  One way to avoid the problem which Dolezal found herself in is to simply identify herself as an American woman of color. No reference to an ancestral identity is necessary and no feelings will be hurt. After all, all human beings originated in Africa and that is part of our DNA. Besides, all people are brown, just different shades of brown.

The acceptance of race as valid and correct is and has been the problem for centuries. The language we use helps to keep us ignorant of who we are and what we are—all human being belong to one race. The fact that ethnic identity is usually based on geography does not mean that a biological difference exists among people. David Reich, a Harvard University paleogeneticist whose new book called Who We Are and How We Got Here, noted that “There are not fixed traits associated with specific geographic locations, Reich says, because as often as isolation has created differences among populations, migration and mixing have blurred or erased them.”In essence, no separate homogeneous race exists.

What this all means is that no one person or group has a monopoly on race regardless of skin color. So, if Dolezal wants to identify herself as an American woman of color, she has every right to do so, because references to an identity on a cultural basis are purely voluntary. Biologically, skin color is just that, skin color.

Paul R. Lehman, The unexpected results of DNA programs regarding genetics, ancestry, and race

February 23, 2018 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Affirmative Action, African American, American Bigotry, Bigotry in America, black inferiority, blacks, discrimination, Disrespect, DNA, DNA programs, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, European Americans, Genealogy,, Human Genome, identity, justice, Michigan, Prejudice, race, Race in America, racism, respect, skin color, skin complexion, U. S. Census, University of Michigan, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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Genealogy has become a popular area of concern for many Americans lately, and many organizations have sprung up to help people needing assistance in building their family tree. Many Americans start out by using research tools available on the internet and in many libraries; much of their early searches involves a paper trail. However, since the advances of science and the introduction of DNA, many successes, as well as many disappointments have resulted in what is discovered. In an article entitled “Unexpected Roots,” (2/12/2018) by The Washington Post writer, Tara Bahrampour, the leading phrase of the article points to the conundrum: “As more people learn of their genetic makeup, African heritages emerge.”

The article focuses on a few people who took advantage of the two currently popular programs for help: “Now, for under $100, it has become increasingly easy to spit into a vial and receive a scientifically accurate assessment of one’s genetic makeup. Companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com provide a list of countries or regions where the predominant genetic traits match those of one’s forebears.” While the test results might seem reassuring to some of the test takers, they can be unsettling to others because the outcome was not what was expected.

Many Americans accept the false concept of race by color, and because no standard exists for color, no factual or concrete definition of race has ever been forthcoming. So, many Americans simply do not question the false concept of a race until it directly impacts them. The article noted that “While little data exists comparing people’s perception with the reality of their ethnic makeup, a 2014 study 23andMe customers found that around 5,200, or roughly 3, 5 percent, of 148,789 self-identified European Americans [whites] had 1 percent or more African ancestry, meaning they had a probable black ancestor going back about six generations or less.” How many of the individuals deal with their newfound information varies from one to the other depending on their self-identity.

Much of the blame for many European Americans seeing themselves as white can be traced to our founding fathers who deliberately instituted a two-race society—one black, and one white, with the white being superior to the black and all other people of color. That system had faults from the very beginning because many Americans, whose skin complexion and hair texture was similar to that of the European Americans, simply “passed” or assumed the race of white. An excellent example of “passing” by an African American was in the novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) by James Weldon Johnson. This novel is mentioned because it fits the actual life experience of Nicole Persley, in the article: “For Persley, 46, the link [to her African ancestry] turned out to be her grandfather, who had moved away from his native Georgia as started a new life passing as white in Michigan. He married a white woman, who bore Persley’s father.” The results of her DNA confirmed that she is nearly 8 percent African. Her reaction was “That was a bombshell revelation for me and my family;” she adds later that “I’m absolutely proud of my genealogy and my heritage, but I think my father would have thought I was dishonoring his father, because it was a secret and I dug it up.”

While the article was interesting and entertaining, it was also informed in the sense that many people still do not know who they are. Many people do not know the difference between race and ethnicity or know the meaning of a cultural identity and an ancestry one. Part of the reason for this ignorance is society’s conditioning towards ethnic biases and away from reality. More precisely, we know any number of things that could help us avoid the problem of identity. Namely, only one race of human beings exists today, Homo sapiens; the Homo sapiens originated in Africa so all Homo sapiens will have a degree of African ancestry in their DNA. While these testing programs like 23andMe and Ancestry.com might be able to show ethnic relations, they cannot indicate race. Why?  Bahrampour noted, “There is no DNA category for race, because a genetic marker for it does not exist.”If some programs inform customers that they belong to a certain race or races then the program is a scam. That information might be difficult for some people to accept because they want to believe something else.

The concept of race by color in America is undergoing a rapid change due to the demographics as the article reported: “In recent years, multiracial Americans have increasingly entered the national consciousness. Between 1970 to 2013, the portion of babies living with two parents of different races rose from 1 percent to 10 percent, the Pew Research Center found.” In addition, “From 2010 to 2016, those who identified as being of two or more races grew by 24 percent, according to census data, a jump that could have had as much to do with the changing way in which Americans identify themselves as an actual increase in the racially mixed population.”

While this Bahrampour article was interesting and informative, it was disappointing in the final analysis because it continued to use the language that keeps the conundrum alive and well. She informed the readers that no DNA marker exists for a category of race. Subsequently, if no category for races exists, then no way to identify that races exists as well. So, why continue to promote the myth and add to the confusion by using the terms race, racist, racial, mixed-race, and multiracial? Of course, she was seeking the responses of other people, not making judgments or pronouncements on her own relative to race and DNA,

In her article, her use of the terms European-American, and African-American indicates the changes taking place in the media moving away from the stereotype of black and white. We know that just simple steps as small as these can help to change the perceptions of many Americans who view themselves through a color.

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