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I'm not even supposed to be here today!!!  

I am not an expert on literature or history but I am an expert on being a bi-racial person raised by a white mother and a black father and that is the perspective I am writing from today.  I try not to live my life in a historical context because I am not an expert but I am smart enough to use it as a frame of reference.  As an example so you understand my thinking.  I am fully aware of how slavery has greatly impacted life in America but I can honestly say that I think about it less than ten times per year.  

Please don't be offended if I don't mention other bi-racial combinations, I know you're out there.  I'm being specific because the WM/BF combination is what I know.

There has been some talk about race this week and although I value the discussion I believe that some of the framing has been less than honest or should I say it has been honest but the tone or underlying message has been ignored.

I am what some people refer to as a bi-racial person.  The two races that I am made up of are a catalyst for many a discussion on race in America.  My mother is white my father is black.  They both did the best they could raising me and I promise to do better than them.

The tragic mulatto is a stereotypical fictional character that appeared in American literature during the 19th and 20th centuries, from the 1840s.[1] The "tragic mulatto" is an archetypical mixed-race person (a "mulatto"), who is assumed to be sad, or even suicidal, because they fail to completely fit in the "white world" or the "black world".[1] As such, the "tragic mulatto" is depicted as the victim of the society they live in, a society divided by race.

I will admit as a teenager when my world and interactions were mostly with other teenagers with yet to be developed brains, that being a bi-racial person was frustrating.  Dealing with my own inability to understand how to best fit in equally to both the "black" and "white" world was enough to drive a person crazy.  Dealing with how other teenagers felt I should fit in to both the "black" and "white" world quite unequally was an entirely different level of frustration.  

Don't get me wrong, I wanted to have long straight hair so when I was running around the bases and getting ready to slide in to home plate, all the girls would think I was fly when I took my helmet off and shook the dust out of my hair in victory.  I wished that my curls were tighter super tight so the waves would stick and actually look live waves.  It certainly didn't make me sad and maybe from a literary standpoint some of those moments could be used to create a "tragic mulatto" but I'm a real person and far more complicated than a definition and a character in a story and it is downright disrespectful to pretend that my life can be so easily broken down into some character in a narrative that is in desperate need of modernizing.

It wasn't until my early twenties(22) that I discovered that fitting in to either of these groups equally was pointless.  For most of my life my interactions with white or black people with regards to my point of view on race considering my being both sounded something like this...

These are questions I have actually been asked.

"Why do you talk like that?"  Both
"I wish I had curly hair." W
"You got that good hair."B
"You think you're better?"W
"You think you're special?"B
"Why are you so loud?"W
"Why are you so quiet?"B
"Can you jump high?" W "Yes, I can."
"Can you dance?" W "No, I can't"
"How come you don't like us?"B "You tried to jump me last week!!!"
Why don't you date black girls?" B "there's two of you in the school and you both have boyfriends!!!"

From an outside perspective I can see how some may think it could make someone sad but it's more of an annoyance than anything.  

There are many things in this world you can't understand unless you go through them.  My particular experience is not uncommon but it's not everyone's.  How a bi-racial person identifies is based mostly on their interactions with the group that they spend the most time around.  

If a bi-racial person spends most of their upbringing or developmental years around black people and they have a positive experience, they are more likely to identify with black people.  

The same goes for a bi-racial person who spends most of their developmental years around white people.  If the experience is positive they will most likely identify with white people.  

Our president for example adds another twist.  He spent a good chunk of his developmental years around neither and was always exposed to diverse communities that didn't always reflect his background a white mother and a black African father.  His stepfather a man who had to have some influence on him was neither black or white.  So his developmental years lasted longer than most.  He settles in to Chicago in a predominatly black area, has a positive experience and goes forth.  

There are many of us who split their development rather evenly among larger groups of bi-racial individuals (like myself).  I've had positive experiences with both side of my family and in that family there are a large number of bi-racial children.  That is how I identify.  

I am as proud of my mother as I am of my father and am critical of both when I feel it is necessary.  I was spitting mad when Adeptu was removed because I believed he was right.  I was equally mad when a diary written a few days ago began to make claims about bi-racial people and the implications of their choices were mischaracterized to say the least.  

The vast majority of bi-racial people are not rejecting a color, they are rejecting experiences and most often they are rejecting idiocy.  It is not just our skin color that makes us who we are.  It may make a difference to other people, but as individuals to ourselves, we are made up of the things we experience and how we perceive those experiences.  

I wrote this diary to give my limited perspective on what it is like to be a bi-racial person in modern day America without involving all the historical baggage that this country can bring with it because that is not how I live my life and it is not how the young people that are coming up in today's society are living their lives.  

Please everyone for the love of God, don't be tricked in to thinking that a bi-racial person can't make a rational decision about how they identify based on their own experiences and perceptions.  Don't be tricked in to thinking that "white" or "black" are the only real choices a bi-racial person has to make or that they have to honor equally the racial backgrounds of their parents, because they don't.  

The title is a quote from someone who was lauded by many for writing a diary that has something to do with what you are about to read.  I hope that people read that diary and the comments made by the diarist to those that actually have experience raising and being a bi-racial person give you the proper perspective on where he is coming from.

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Comment Preferences

  •  This is great... (5+ / 0-)

    Been there, done that.  Put this on Facebook.

  •  Thanks for that interesting perspective. (11+ / 0-)

    As a woman of Spanish-American descent, I grew up with the Spanish last name, so people didn't make derrogatory comments to my face (with the exception of one person in 9th grade) and as an adult, with a French last name, I get to hear all those derrogatory remarks about Latinos/Hispanics/Spanish-Americans.  What a world we live in.

    being mindful and keepin' it real

    by Raggedy Ann on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:17:36 AM PST

  •  In a few hundred years... (9+ / 0-)

    ...most of us will be mixed race.

    Preparing for the Mayan doomsday prophecy by hastily trying to get in the good graces of snake-bird god Q’uq’umatz

    by dov12348 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:17:49 AM PST

  •  Tipped and rec'd (20+ / 0-)

    As the black mother of a bi-racial child, thank you for this diary. As someone who despite both of my parents being black, struggled with similar issues growing up, thank you.

    My family background is West Indian and there were lots of times growing up where other black people rejected me as authentically black ( whatever that is) while among whites I was an exotic curiosity. Add being Catholic to that and white ethnic Catholics ( eg Irish, Italian, Polish etc ) not accepting you as authentically Catholic and most black people not understanding that you weren't Baptist, AME etc.

    I got the whole Oreo, you talk white, why do you act white BS along with the you're so articulate, your parents must be so proud of you, condescension.

    Then add falling in love with a white guy of Norwegian German ancestry and having a kid. Yep. We had people ask us from the get go "but won't your child be confused". And we didn't decide to have a child without considering that. My husband had to learn a lot about what he was signing up for and he didn't really truly get it until the first time son came home having been called Nigger and opened up to us about what he'd experienced from both white and black classmates.

    Neither his father nor I could fully prepare him for the journey  he's had. I was a bit more equipped than my husband. He's had mostly good moments with a few bad but he's confident in who he is and has learned to say eff it if other people have issues with who he is.

    If I could rec this 1000x I would:

    The vast majority of bi-racial people are not rejecting a color, they are rejecting experiences and most often they are rejecting idiocy.
    It took me a long time to outgrow my own insecurities about who I might be letting down by marrying my husband. I wish people would stop trying to decide for other people how and what they should feel or be.

    We view "The Handmaid's Tale" as cautionary. The GOP views it as an instruction book.

    by Vita Brevis on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:28:28 AM PST

    •  It's funny (8+ / 0-)

      When I moved to NYC in my twenties is when I really began to settle in to my current view.

      It was my exposure to black people from places other than America like the West Indies, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and other spots around the world that helped me to understand that the only person I owed was myself.  

      My wife and I have an eight month old little girl, who is going to go through it to some degree but I think as time goes on it will get easier.    

      Who ya gonna shoot wit dat homie, you'd rather blast an original instead of a phony, true macaroni, you don't even know me, and why does your gun say n****z only?

      by mim5677 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:40:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It does get easier (5+ / 0-)

        The issues that my son has dealt with were fewer than my generation's and I think will continue to lessen with your daughter's generation.

        We view "The Handmaid's Tale" as cautionary. The GOP views it as an instruction book.

        by Vita Brevis on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:48:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I had a very different version (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        glorificus, Vita Brevis

        with a Polish Jewish father and a Scottish/Welsh/Irish-American Catholic mother (more or less as in Abie's Irish Rose), who ended up as Christian Scientists while I went off to be a Buddhist monk and then a global education/antipoverty activist. (Yes, there still are Scottish Catholics, and they, too, have both their Scottishness and their Catholicism questioned. Read The Keys of the Kingdom.)

        When my parents married, Jews were still not White in the US. There were still heavy restrictions on Jewish immigration, and universities and other organizations had anti-Jewish quotas. As with Asians today, the excuse was that Jews studied too hard and would push Whites out.

        We lived in all-white suburbs of Newark, NJ for years, and then we moved into the blockbusted Weequahic neighborhood. They told me and my brother later that they wanted us to have more of the experience of reality in a mixed-race neighborhood and school. Eventually, they lived through the Newark riots with a National Guard tank parked at the end of the block, but they held on until the muggings got too frequent.

        Weequahic High School was once one of the best in the US, with the highest rate of Ph. D.s per capita among graduates. In my time it was half-Jewish, half-Black, and in no way integrated. We apparently had the first high-school Swahili class in the US, but with no Blacks in attendance. Later WHS descended into open gang warfare, but it has since recovered considerably, as told in the documentary Heart of Stone. The story is named for WHS Principal Ron Stone.

        America—We built that!

        by Mokurai on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 10:49:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I teach preschool (Head Start) (10+ / 0-)

    And in my classroom right now are three 'mixed race' children.

    Over the years, I have averaged four kids per class.  I would say that center-wide, the average is more like six per class.

    When I started teaching 16 years ago, around St. Patrick's Day, I would do a lesson on ethnicity.  I don't do that anymore.

    Because the kids in my class no longer define themselves as Italian, or Polish, or Irish, or African.

    Mixed is the norm today.  Everyone is American, no matter what they look like.

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:39:01 AM PST

    •  Thank goodness (9+ / 0-)

      the kids are making their own rules.  Since it is so much more prevalent now than it was years ago I think it is appropriate that we follow the lead of younger people, especially when it comes to stuff like this.  

      Who ya gonna shoot wit dat homie, you'd rather blast an original instead of a phony, true macaroni, you don't even know me, and why does your gun say n****z only?

      by mim5677 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:47:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You could still do something on cultural (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      background. I once taught preschool multilingual music classes, with songs in a dozen languages, in the Music Around the World program. I sing in

      English, including Middle English
      French, including Old French
      Spanish, including Ladino
      Russian, including Church Slavonic

      Yeah, I know. I'm weird.

      America—We built that!

      by Mokurai on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 04:23:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh- I teach languages every day (0+ / 0-)

        We know how to say "Hello" and Good'bye in Spanish, French, Italian, Swahili, and ASL.

        Other words and expressions- Please, thank you, yes, no, I love you, mother/father, friend

        We talk about similarities, differences, and voice tones.  They so enjoy speaking "British".  And love saying, "Oui, oui,

        Every month we learn a new language.  January will be Japanese and February Chinese.  (Although most of the kids know Chines words- thanks to a TV program.

        They know more Spanish because they will encounter that language more than others.

        My point was that I no longer ask the kids that silly question- "What are you?" because we are all Americans.

        When I was a child, the answer to that question was "Irish/German".

        And I love weird.

        Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

        by grannycarol on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 08:52:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great read. I have the wonderful challenge of (7+ / 0-)

    raising a daughter who is quad-racial.  My task is to expose her as much as I can to all of her backgrounds and to fight the whole "exotic" meme.

    Yes, she's gorgeous and it's difficult to pin her down, but that doesn't make her any less black, asian or Native American any more than it makes her white.

    Luckily our family, too, has many multi-racial individuals who have blazed a path for her.

    Thanks for posting!

    Corporations are driven by the bottom line, not by concerns for health, safety or the environment. This is why we need government regulations.

    by the dogs sockpuppet on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 09:06:06 AM PST

  •  I get a glimpse of my younger cousins lives... (7+ / 0-)

    thru Facebook..... and when I see their pictures of themselves and their friends, it really truly is a rainbow of hues and ethnicities.... they don't care and I love them for that.

  •  Identifying as "neither" does get easier (6+ / 0-)

    but it helps a lot if parents give their children permission to be "neither" or "none of the above" and to select for themselves from among the values and benefits, what fits for them personally.

    The vast majority of bi-racial people are not rejecting a color, they are rejecting experiences and most often they are rejecting idiocy.
    It is not just our skin color that makes us who we are.  It may make a difference to other people, but as individuals to ourselves, we are made up of the things we experience and how we perceive those experiences.  
    The same can be said for children of deeply ingrained "mixed-cultural" traditions.

    I'm such a child and can pass for American, but at different times every day, I'm definitely not American, and at others, I'm quintessential American.  Living a portion of one's life outside the country of birth can sharpen perspective, in exactly the way you describe. I've never identified with any hyphenated adjective. They were false true/false tests.

    It's great to see and hear that the next generation is inclined to leave behind the hyphenated identity labels that are used to stereotype and divide us.

    All of us "mixed" folks are a synthesis of everything we experience, everything we notice, and what we choose to think about, and what we choose to act on, and how we choose to respond to external pressures and seductions.

    Someday - questions attempting to measure racial statistics may include "none of the above" or "multicontinent DNA."

  •  I live in (6+ / 0-)

    Washington state where being bi-racial is very normal.  I look bi-racial, but I'm not.  I'm just a very mixed-race black person.  When you see my name first, but don't know how I look, you don't really know what I am.  But the look of surprise I get when most people see that I am black especially with an italian-french name is amusing, also can be insulting especially some of the questions white people can ask; they don't mean to be annoying, just ignorant of how black people can be very mixed (I have one sister who is very dark) and not have a direct parent that's either another race or white.  Black people their questions are just different, their questions normally come out of what are you mixed with; and the good hair thing, which was really annoying when I was growing up.

    •  Soccer star Mario Bolatelli (Super Mario) (0+ / 0-)

      is a Ghanaian orphan adopted by an Italian family. He regularly gets racist taunts at games: There are no Blacks in Italy.

      Olympic volleyballer Debbie Green was a Korean orphan adopted in the US. I had two Korean orphans as next-door neighbors, with Polish surnames.

      I know a Laotian nurse-practitioner at a local medical facility named Nidavanh Klopfenstein.

      In the first half of the 20th century, almost all Jewish actors and comedians changed their names. Jack Benny, Red Buttons, Danny Kaye, Victor Borge, and so on and on. Not Molly Goldberg, though. It still happens, as with Jon Stewart.

      Alex Wagner, on MSNBC, is half Burmese, and part German and Irish.

      And so on.

      America—We built that!

      by Mokurai on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 04:52:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you for sharing your perspectives. (5+ / 0-)

    I am substantially involved in raising my two"mixed" grandchildren. I read the other diary with interest as well. Practically there is not much choice for my grandchildren at the moment since they are spending so much time with me and around my white friends and family. At the moment they obviously identify with what they know and experience. My challenge is to help them feel open to identify differently as well. It is a fraught process at times. But on the other hand seeing how the love for these amazing children trumps the already existent racism among many of my older southern white relatives it makes me hopeful. Maybe we will be able to truly become "post-racial" when the black/white lines become mixed by experience, familiarity and love.

    "Speak the TRUTH, even if your voice shakes."

    by stellaluna on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 09:13:46 AM PST

  •  I'm half jewish, but I "don't look jewish" and (5+ / 0-)

    don't have a typically jewish first or last name.  You would not believe the horrible shit people have said in my presence, not knowing that I am half jewish.  

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 09:33:32 AM PST

    •  Oh yeah. I'm very white looking (4+ / 0-)

      blond hair, blue eyes, red beard - and very Jewish.  And my last name is SMITH.  Really.  Every time I move to a new congregation there is a whole are you REALLY a Jew bullshit to go through.

      And we sail and we sail and we never see land, just the rum in the bottle and a pipe in my hand...

      by Mortifyd on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 10:03:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Blond, blue-eyed, six feet tall (0+ / 0-)

      I was picked out of my Hebrew class as what the Germans claimed Aryans looked like. Very weird, but not at all hostile.

      We knew that Aryan-looking Jews had joined Hitler's SS so that they could warn Jews when the SS was coming. Similarly, there had been a Jewish Catholic bishop in Toledo, Spain in the 1500s who let hidden Jews know when the Inquisition was coming.

      Don't let them tell you that nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

      Of course, real ethnic Aryans look North Indian. Gypsies/Roma, for example, whom the Nazis also tried to exterminate.

      America—We built that!

      by Mokurai on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 04:59:42 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  That, and soccer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LilithGardener, SLKRR, glorificus

    Mexico City has a "Plaza de las Tres Culturas"  (European, Indigenous, Mestizo).  So just like they have soccer figured out better than we do; they have race figured out better than we do.

    But they also have Memim Pinguino stamps and "se requiere buena presentacion" help wanted signs.  It's a work in progress.

    •  Brazil, too (5+ / 0-)

      Brazil is certainly not the "racial democracy" that it often claims to be ("boa aparência" exists here, too), but at least the issue of being multi-racial is pretty much moot.  At least half the population is visibly multi-racial.  The other half is, too, but just not as obviously.  Do a Google images search on Camila Pitanga (for example), and try to identify her race just from pictures (mostly SFW).

      In other words, you can self-identify as Afro-Brazilian (or Japanese-Brazilian, etc.), or you can self-identify simply as Brazilian without being considered as having "rejected" your heritage or other such nonsense.  

      Article 196. Health care is a right of all persons and an obligation of the State, guaranteed through social and economic policies that provide...universal and equitable access to programs and services....

      by SLKRR on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 10:32:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good times (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I used to work with a Chinese-Brazilian.  She spoke Cantonese, Mandarin, Portuguese and English.  

        Well, I can fake my way through "Portunol"

        •  Cool (0+ / 0-)

          My wife has a Chinese-Iranian-Brazilian cousin.  She speaks Mandarin, Portuguese, English, and Farsi!  

          Portunhol is what comes out when I attempt Spanish... LOL  It's mostly understandable... I hope!

          Article 196. Health care is a right of all persons and an obligation of the State, guaranteed through social and economic policies that provide...universal and equitable access to programs and services....

          by SLKRR on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 06:42:28 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  I doubt it's by design... (0+ / 0-)

    But you misrepresented what that diary was about.  It wasn't a slight towards anyone bi-racial, however, it was about how some bi-racial folks, specifically those from the CNN and NPR stories, were trying to pass as white and rejecting their perception of  "blackness"...  When he said "I would not raise 'mixed race' children", it's because they're mixed race it's because they will more than likely be considered black.

    The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing online commenters that they have anything to say.-- B.F.

    by lcj98 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 11:25:59 AM PST

    •  I'm not representing his diary (0+ / 0-)

      This is about what I know and the real world practical experience I have dealing with being bi-racial.  

      I'm going to ramble a bit...

      Not that you are defending him but when he resorts to calling someone, white, a sellout, uncle ruckus, and a race traitor because they disagree, he's misrepresenting his own diary.  There is nothing tragic about the people in the NPR story.  In 99% of the country they would be looked at as white or something other than black.  How can they not help but see themselves as different?  

      The mother in the NPR story made a choice to list her daughter as a "negro" on her birth certificate.  Her mom had no way of knowing how her daughter would perceive her experiences and that is the result.  When it comes to this subject in general it isn't the old way of thinking that is making the rules anymore and that is what CDV represents.  A method of thinking about race that is rooted in history and has to remain rooted in history, when the reality is that things are and have changed to a greater extent and faster than he is comfortable with at this time.  

      If a person feels they are white and their experiences lead them to that decision who am I? Who is he? Who are any of us to question that?  

      More specifically why the negative value associated to a persons decision which he may not fully understand.  

      That's the whole point.  He has a literary and historical understanding of mullattos or mixed race people and is mainly intersted in issues of black/white mixes.  

      I have a practical and real world understanding and I can assure you that there is nothing wrong with an individual picking or choosing who and what they want to be based on their experiences and it in no way makes them "tragic" which is a term reserved for fictional characters.  It's the same thing as "the angry black guy" or "the money loving Jew"  

      These characterizations are fictional and shouldn't be accepted by people on a progressive site no matter the source.

      As a point about the title,  He would not be the first parent to assume they are going to raise their kids one way only to end up with different results.  He could stuff his children with all the books and education he wants to but in the end they will identify with whomever they have the most positive experiences with.

      Just think about it.  " I won't raise any gay kids.  Not going to happen."  You don't have a choice in that.

      He totally agreed with someone who stated that a mixed race movement was boiling up in the U.S. based out of fear and disdain for black people.  What does one do with that?  

      Who ya gonna shoot wit dat homie, you'd rather blast an original instead of a phony, true macaroni, you don't even know me, and why does your gun say n****z only?

      by mim5677 on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 12:09:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mother of color raising mixed kids (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    glorificus, Vita Brevis

    Thanks for the diary -- it's fascinating to read about race on DKos. I'm mixed race -- Black and Middle Eastern. Being raised by my mother made it more natural for me to identify as black. But I don't look black to most people, so I often have to assert that part of my identity. I've experienced prejudice against blacks and middle easterners. As for my children, I want them to figure it out for themselves. The world is changing, and we don't have the same pressures as my mother did for example, growing up in the segregated South, where it was dangerous to be black. I tell my kids about their heritage, and though I made sure to put my son is a predominantly minority school, I want both kids to figure out their identity on their own. Most "experts" in raising mutli-ethnic children say that's best -- otherwise, children might rebel anyway. It would be nice not to care about this stuff but that's not the world we live in, yet.

    The civil rights, gay rights and women's movements, designed to allow others to reach for power previously grasped only by white men, have made a real difference, and the outlines of 21st century America have emerged. -- Paul West of LA Times

    by LiberalLady on Thu Dec 13, 2012 at 12:18:26 PM PST

    •  That's the way I like to frame it: (0+ / 0-)

      Multi-ethnic (and/or multi-cultural.) Not 'neither', but both (or, y'know, however many).

      Different people, different situations, of course, but IMO defaulting to the categories of 'Race' (especially regarding self-definition) gives away ground from the start. Obviously you can't control how other people react to your perceived race/ethnicity, but growing up with an understanding "this is my heritage/who I am, whether other people  know it or not' can help deal with the bs.

  •  great diary homie (0+ / 0-)

    as I said to you yesterday:

    I'll tell you like i told chauncey though... Here, nobody would assume you were mixed. And if you talk anything like my ex did (wait have we talked about the girl i lived with in my 20s who was from minneapolis who had a black dad and nor/swede mom?) you just use syntax like i do lol. BUT good point on the whole frame of the "tragic mulatto." again good diary.

    This comment is dedicated to my mellow Adept2U and his Uncle Marcus

    by mallyroyal on Fri Dec 14, 2012 at 08:07:01 AM PST

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