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Forum Home - Go Back > Pow Wow Arena > Ask PowWows.com Connotations of the word "red" in Native American cultures Connotations of the word "red" in Native American cultures

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Old 06-12-2020, 03:39 PM   #1
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Wink Connotations of the word "red" in Native American cultures

Thank you for providing this forum to ask questions. I have been far removed from Native American culture here on the East Coast. My very last memories of proximity to the culture was when my father served as a volunteer doctor on a Lakota Indian Reservation circa 1979 when I was three years old, so my perspective is very antiquated to say the least.

I serve as part of a employee resource group that advances the representation and interests of BIPOC at a financial services firm.

Someone anonymously said our group's acronym, RED, which stands for "racial and ethnically diverse," is offensive to Native Americans and reminds them of "rednecks."

My understanding was that "redskins" was the pejorative term, but not just "red." In Latin America, we never used "rojo" to describe Native Americans (though "indio" is considered a slur but "indigeno/a" is a preferred neutral term AFAIK).

I would actually like to hear from REAL Native American perspectives on this the connotations of the word "RED" on this since it's my first encounter of this interpretation, even as a POC.

Please share your perspectives so I can evolve and change if need be.

Thank you so much.
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Old 06-13-2020, 10:38 AM   #2
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First, I feel compelled to place my statements in perspective. I'm part of an older generation that seems to be significantly less easily triggered. If I had gone from zero to outrage as fast as some of my younger colleagues do, I would have burned myself out some time during my undergraduate years or had my head explode when I was nine during the 800th episode of Bonanza.

I was taught that being a good relative means understanding and caring for all your kin -- Indian and non-. All people are prisoners of their experiences, histories and worldviews. These form the lenses through which we all view the world. All lenses have their own unique aberrations, which affect how we perceive the scene in front of us and can twist innocuous acts into unintended offenses. The best way to be a good relative in a world full of bad eyeglasses is try for the teachable moment, while assuming that others aren't willful blind.

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I have been far removed from Native American culture here on the East Coast. My very last memories of proximity to the culture...
In the spirit of that teachable moment, I'm going to offer my opinion on a couple comments I found more disturbing than your acronym.

Please, cultures – plural. There is no one "Native American culture." Native America is a hugely varied place, with a delightful range of worldviews and lifeways.

Seeing the Native cultures around you is one of those lens issues. If your picture of Native culture is a child's view of late 1970's, Lakota reservation culture then you may not see the Native worlds that are all around you. The east coast is not far removed from Indian Country. All of the western hemisphere is Indian Country. We are still here.

I did my undergrad work in rural east Tennessee, postdoc'ed in Boston and taught in DC. I can assure you Indian cultures are there, sometimes bloodied by 500+ years of colonization and often very different from what you knew on the rez. They exist in university powwows, wild onion dinner, beading classes in church basements, Wampanoag vocabulary lists exchanged by emails, community feasts, stick ball games, fifth Sunday hymn sings…. Please don't assume anywhere in the US is far from at least one Native culture. Our various ways, like our ancestors' bones, shake beneath the ground and push up through the concrete like weeds.


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I would actually like to hear from REAL Native American perspectives….

Now this is offensive. How do you define real? Phenotypically Indian-looking? How would my enrolled, Cherokee language speaking, blond green-eyed friend fare? Is she real? What about the beautiful Miccosukee and African woman who danced at the last powwow I went it? Do you have the live on the rez to be real? Do the >50% of Native people who live in the cities count? Must you speak your ancestral language to be real? Do you have to be enrolled? Do you need to be a full blood? Do you have to think a certain way? Vote a certain way? Does the colonizer get to define Native authenticity?

Teachable moment again. I suspect you meant Indian people not wannabes. I do not think you intended to offend. But, Native people more than any other minority in this country face questions about whether they are authentic. They must always prove they are real. These decisions about our authenticity have real and often adverse effects on our lives, our communities and our childrens' futures. I think the Native employees of your company would be more offended by the real Indian comment than the acronym.


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Someone anonymously said our group's acronym, RED, which stands for "racial and ethnically diverse," is offensive to Native Americans and reminds them of "rednecks."
Your employee resource group is named "Racially and Ethnically Diverse"? My first response is that sounds more like a description than a name. My second response is must we reduce English to a collection of capital letters. Really, not every communication needs to be thumb typing and Twitter friendly.

Maybe the association of a color name with a skin color is a dominant culture or generational phenomena. It not the first place I go. In my culture, red is a fairly positive color. It's associated with sacred things, women, and romantic sunset picnics with your honey. To me it is coral waiting to be cut and set, the color of Smoky Mountain earth or a nice clay body waiting to be thrown, or a big bowl of feast day posole.

In my half century plus of life, I have discovered that my taking offense over little things only hurts me. Viewing the world in an outraged colonizer/colonized binary hasn't got me as far in intercultural relations as a willingness to educate and forgive. I'm an iyeska, I have to believe in what we can build together.

But, what do I know? I'm just one woman, with one viewpoint.
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Old 06-13-2020, 10:56 AM   #3
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Old 06-13-2020, 11:57 AM   #4
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Thank you for your reply. My words were ill-chosen and for that, I apologize. And your interpretation of "Indian people not wannabes" is what I meant. I will be more thoughtful to make sure that I do express the plurality of Native American cultures.

Our group is currently facing some racial gaslighting by individuals who like to push buttons. We have a lot of those "all lives matter" folks who don't get it that if our society allows police extra-judicial killings and brutality against BIPOC all in the name of law and order, then "all lives" don't really matter. And too many of the "woke" white folks also like to lecture and control the conversation, centering it solely on their understanding and perspective (e.g. it isn't a fact or valid perspective to them if they haven't read/heard about it, when pure common sense would tell you that facts exist out of your purview even if you don't know about them, but I digress...)

Amongst our group's POC, who are not and do not identify as Native American, thought that this sounded like racial gaslighting given the history explained above, so I said I needed to investigate this to be absolutely sure through authentic voices of Native American peoples about the connotation of the word "red", thus my entry here into the forum.

Quote:
But, what do I know? I'm just one woman, with one viewpoint.
You do know. Please do not discount your voice with that expression. You've educated me and edified me in refining my language that has been contaminated with what I suspect are white supremacist cultural expressions. I value that. I thank you for that.

Are there any resources I can read up on to further educate myself?
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Old 06-13-2020, 02:46 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalitah28 View Post
Thank you for your reply.

You're welcome.

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Are there any resources I can read up on to further educate myself?

I'm going to have to think about this for a while. This is kind of outside my usual areas of interest. (Tho' I can make some good recommendations on non-imaging optics design, Lakota ethnology, Native identity issues, and silversmithing. Not exactly what you're looking for, I suspect.)


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…I suspect are white supremacist cultural expressions….

I am going to digress here for a moment.

First, I resist this term. I prefer dominant culture. It has been my experience that loaded terms like that usually end the conversation.

I realize this an academic term and that within the framework of critical theory it isn't as fraught a term. In the years since the early civil rights movement the dominant culture has changed, not as much as needed. But, if we are to be fair, they have changed some areas a lot. It appears to me that white people when confronted with that term experience a visceral reaction where some piece of their mind replays images of fire hoses, attack dogs, the Edmund Pettis bridge and burning crosses. Most recoil and the rational part of their brain shuts down; the "no, that's not me" recording starts playing. End of any useful exchange.

I find hope the fact that those images, laden with profound negative connotations, exist within the dominant culture collective subconscious. But a person undergoing a defensive reaction is unable take the risk of looking through another set of eyes. Their identity is under threat.
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Old 06-13-2020, 06:12 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Lalitah28 View Post

I serve as part of a employee resource group that advances the representation and interests of BIPOC at a financial services firm.



My understanding was that "redskins" was the pejorative term, but not just "red." In Latin America, we never used "rojo" to describe Native Americans (though "indio" is considered a slur but "indigeno/a" is a preferred neutral term AFAIK).

I would actually like to hear from REAL Native American perspectives on this the connotations of the word "RED" on this since it's my first encounter of this interpretation, even as a POC.


Thank you so much.
Greetings and welcome to powwows.calm ! (i hope)
I'm one of your average real deal un-educated savages that hangs out here sometimes and I have a couple of questions and a comment or two ! LOL

You posted a host of initials in your post and being a high school dropout I would like you to clarify what they mean/stand for.
1. BIPOC
2.POC

Next I'll say that there is a huge difference between "redskin" and "redneck" and as a displaced Cheyenne growing up in the dominate white society , I can be either one ! LOL the word redskin is just a word.....until you throw it directly at me , then we'll have issues. Most of my wife"s family fits into the latter catagory ! They are all rednecks in the purest form !And before you ask , yes , they are all "Indian" to some degree. Some/most don't care about the ndn side , however my wife does. I veered away from the white side and returned to the ndn side. I guess I should say "Native American" but I prefer ndn ! My Pop always said it's like onion only with an I (inion). My Mexican friends always called me Indio and I guarantee there was no disrespect intended.

The word red is just a color , it doesn't mean a thing other than that ! All the political correctness is ridiculous and completely out of hand ! I just read where someone got fired from his job for mentioning "colored" people because it was racist ! So what do the letters NAACP stand for ? Good grief get over it.
Everyone wants to be "WOKE" , what does that even mean ?
__________________
I believe blood quantums are the governments way to breed us out of existance !


They say blood is thicker than water ! Now maple syrup is thicker than blood , so are pancakes more important than family ?

There are "Elders" and there are "Olders". Being the second one doesn't make the first one true !

Somebody is out there somewhere, thinking of you and the impact you made in their life.
It's not me....I think you're an idiot !





There's a chance you might not like me ,

but there's a bigger

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Old 06-13-2020, 06:20 PM   #7
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And why does a financial services company even care how we feel about anything ? Just what is it they're trying to fix ? If a Black person , White person , Native American person and an Oriental person all showed up to apply for the same job at your firm , being "woke" who would you hire , and why ?
Sorry , I just got mad !
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I believe blood quantums are the governments way to breed us out of existance !


They say blood is thicker than water ! Now maple syrup is thicker than blood , so are pancakes more important than family ?

There are "Elders" and there are "Olders". Being the second one doesn't make the first one true !

Somebody is out there somewhere, thinking of you and the impact you made in their life.
It's not me....I think you're an idiot !





There's a chance you might not like me ,

but there's a bigger

chance I won't care
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Old 06-13-2020, 07:17 PM   #8
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WD, those are the acronyms are a mix of both the Twitterverse and the academy. Us old geezers who can't type a six paragraph text message with only four fully spelled out words in thirty seconds flat are doomed to illiteracy, LOL.

POC = person of color;
BIPOC = black, indigenous person of color;
AFAIK = as far as I know.

The last three months of working from home where every communication between myself and my colleagues has been by email or text has been an education. I had to call our 23 year old optical engineer and ask him whether he had the stroke or I had. He sent a 4 paragraph email about a lens design and had omitted most of the articles, used every acronym his high-priced engineering school education had taught him, abbreviated almost every other word, and let auto-complete type for him. Between the text and the equations, there were 7 complete words. Three of them were autocorrect substitutions of similarly spelled words.

To show my age by quoting Alice's Restaurant, "...forty-five minutes and nobody understood a word that he said. But we had fun fillin' out the forms and playin' with the pencils on the bench, there...." I feel old, LOL.
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Old 06-13-2020, 08:06 PM   #9
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A few recommendations:

David Truer, Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life, Grove Press, 2013.

Vine Deloria, Jr, Spirit and Reason: The Vine Deloria, Jr. Reader, Fulcrum Press, 1999.

Eva Garroutte, Real Indians: Identity and the Survival of Native America, University of California Press, 2003.

Roxanne Ortiz-Dunbarr, Gino Whittaker, All the Real Indians Died Off": And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans, Beacon Press, 2016.

Vic Glover, Keeping Heart on Pine Ridge: Family Ties, Warrior culture, Commodity Foods, Rez Dogs, and the Sacred, Native Voices Press, 2004.


These don't focus per se on intercultural relations. They are more instructive about how the view of the interaction differs from the Indian side. The Deloria book was originally published in the early 1970's, but it lays out some of differences between the Native experience in the US and that of other minorities.

One of the big differences in how Indian relations with the dominant culture differs from that of other minorities is treaties. Many, though not all, Native communities have unique legal relationships with the federal government. Sovereignty and self-determination are part of how Native peoples' interactions with the dominant culture institutions play out.

Last edited by OLChemist; 06-13-2020 at 10:12 PM.. Reason: Proofreading is a really good idea, unless you want to sound like Cletus the Slack Jawed Yokel.
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Old 06-13-2020, 09:11 PM   #10
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I am a redneck. I work hard at it. I don’t hear much praise on here for rednecks and I can’t think of a thing to praise them for neither (O L will kill me for that “neither”). I have love in my heart and the creator put that there and I am color blind.
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Old 06-13-2020, 09:20 PM   #11
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Thank you all

@OLChemist: Thank you for the list. I will make time to educate myself.
Regarding the use of the word "white supremacist" and just the term "white" itself: in conversations with white people, I do refrain from using them because of what you just said, it shuts down the conversation for them. You got folks like Tucker Carlson on Fox News claiming it's a slur, so I totally get it. [¯\_(⊙_ʖ⊙)_/¯]


@wardancer
Quote:
And why does a financial services company even care how we feel about anything ? Just what is it they're trying to fix ? If a Black person , White person , Native American person and an Oriental person all showed up to apply for the same job at your firm , being "woke" who would you hire , and why ?
Sorry , I just got mad !
It's OK to be mad. They're losing bu$ine$$ because of not paying to attention to BIPOC leaving the company. Clients in financial services (think people who have pensions and 401k retirements plans for their employees) are starting to require that their businesses reflect the communities that they serve through policies that govern their investments, called ESG standing for Environmental, social and corporate governance.

Think of if you had a pile of money and you were putting it into stocks and you say "I'm not investing in companies that don't treat their employees good, so no Amazon stock. And I'm not supporting any petrochemical or mining companies messing up the environment and impacting Indigenous communities, so no stocks in ExxonMobil or BHP Group and similar companies."

Clients are sending outbids requiring diversity in our staff and in our policies with vendors.

It ain't window dressing diversity anymore where as long as you had some BIPOC sweeping the floors or serving as secretaries, all was good. Clients are asking that BIPOC be in be client-facing and in leadership positions. It's hitting their pockets.

On another note: the use of the acronym BIPOC is an attempt to build solidarity between between Black, Indigenous and People of Color, like this: The BIPOC Project
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Old 06-14-2020, 12:00 AM   #12
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So , if the civilized universe wants diversity in business , then why do the different races/cultures/colors segregate themselves into neighborhoods of the same race/culture/color as themselves. In every major city there are community lines drawn ! The white live here , the blacks there , the ndns have that area over there , Orientals and Asians down there? If everyone wanted diversity ,everyone should just blend in together ?Right ?
I'm sorry , I don't see it ! I think it's all bullsh*t !ndns want to be around other ndns , blacks want to be around other black etc , etc I try to treat everyone the same but people are not the same !
Who would you hire ??? The best qualified applicant ! A person has a choice to either be an excellent well trained employee or they can sit around and complain about how mistreated and oppressed they are !

If you force diversity you'll find out the hard way that it doesn't work. Companies have been trying it for decades ! Even the feds can't make it work ! I wish you all the luck in the world.
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__________________
I believe blood quantums are the governments way to breed us out of existance !


They say blood is thicker than water ! Now maple syrup is thicker than blood , so are pancakes more important than family ?

There are "Elders" and there are "Olders". Being the second one doesn't make the first one true !

Somebody is out there somewhere, thinking of you and the impact you made in their life.
It's not me....I think you're an idiot !





There's a chance you might not like me ,

but there's a bigger

chance I won't care

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Old 06-14-2020, 09:50 AM   #13
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…then why do the different races/cultures/colors segregate themselves into neighborhoods of the same race/culture/color as themselves….

I would add class and educational level to your list.

About a decade ago, I read a book written by one of the first women to work in the San Francisco Fire Department. She discussed the tendency of the men she worked with to avoid her or be very awkward. She said each group has patterns of acceptable interaction and shared touchstones, and it was just easier to interact with people who share these. She spoke of developing an understanding and eventually an affection for the patterns of US male interaction, while aware as a woman it would be considered inappropriate for her to emulate and participate in many of these.

Despite having seen and participated in a lot of cross-cultural communication of my life, it was still eye opening. It reframed my understanding of my male colleagues' behavior. It also led me to some occasionally shocking insights into my own behavior.

Sure, there is ignorance and the potential for malice in all human hearts and minds. Some folks embrace this. Some are frightened and react thusly. Some are careless. Some are selfish and can't see others. But most are simply following the path of least resistance.


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If you force diversity you'll find out the hard way that it doesn't work. Companies have been trying it for decades ! Even the feds can't make it work ! I wish you all the luck in the world.

Of course the Feds can't make it work! As you have pointed out before, we are all products of the Creator. We were made to suit the Creator's design. We bear the individual gifts and weaknesses we were made with. Until we acknowledge this and see each other as bearers of the Creator's imprint, we can't treat each other with respect and appreciation. (It would also help if we all learned to cut each other some slack. And maybe spend more time learning with our eyes and ears than our lips.)

This isn't color blindness. This is humble acceptance of the Creator's design and the Creator's gifts.


In keeping with the eyes and ears comment, I'll shut my mouth now.

Last edited by OLChemist; 06-14-2020 at 12:38 PM.. Reason: Speaking of leaving out the articles, LOL.
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Old 06-14-2020, 11:53 AM   #14
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As I probably should as well ! I just get riled up at all the political correctness , then add in the hypocrisy , and a little holier than thou attitude ! I will live as I've always lived. My attitudes will not change , although I have in the past and I suppose I could again, but I think not likely ! LOL
Any person , that would rather whine and cry about diversity , needs to shut up and work harder to be the best at what they do ! Then they don't have to worry about diversity !
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They say blood is thicker than water ! Now maple syrup is thicker than blood , so are pancakes more important than family ?

There are "Elders" and there are "Olders". Being the second one doesn't make the first one true !

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Old 06-14-2020, 08:57 PM   #15
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I miss Zeke !
__________________
I believe blood quantums are the governments way to breed us out of existance !


They say blood is thicker than water ! Now maple syrup is thicker than blood , so are pancakes more important than family ?

There are "Elders" and there are "Olders". Being the second one doesn't make the first one true !

Somebody is out there somewhere, thinking of you and the impact you made in their life.
It's not me....I think you're an idiot !





There's a chance you might not like me ,

but there's a bigger

chance I won't care
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Old 06-15-2020, 12:09 AM   #16
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Angry The word red

It is a very rude term I never liked that word
even when I was in school it bothers me its like white skin
I have never used that term because it is a slur. I will never call anyone that. I am sorry if I don't like the term I hate the football teams name.
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Old 06-15-2020, 10:32 AM   #17
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Quote:
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It is a very rude term I never liked that word
even when I was in school it bothers me its like white skin
I have never used that term because it is a slur. I will never call anyone that. I am sorry if I don't like the term I hate the football teams name.
The word "RED" is just a color , nothing more , nothing less. It has nothing to do with anything related to Native peoples unless used with another word , such as "Skin" which is also just a word. When you combine those 2 words then it could become a slur. Don't try to read more into things than they really are.
__________________
I believe blood quantums are the governments way to breed us out of existance !


They say blood is thicker than water ! Now maple syrup is thicker than blood , so are pancakes more important than family ?

There are "Elders" and there are "Olders". Being the second one doesn't make the first one true !

Somebody is out there somewhere, thinking of you and the impact you made in their life.
It's not me....I think you're an idiot !





There's a chance you might not like me ,

but there's a bigger

chance I won't care
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Old 06-16-2020, 10:17 PM   #18
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Some tribes red paint is for war.
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Old 06-17-2020, 08:40 AM   #19
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Some tribes red paint is for war.
Not the same thing.
__________________
I believe blood quantums are the governments way to breed us out of existance !


They say blood is thicker than water ! Now maple syrup is thicker than blood , so are pancakes more important than family ?

There are "Elders" and there are "Olders". Being the second one doesn't make the first one true !

Somebody is out there somewhere, thinking of you and the impact you made in their life.
It's not me....I think you're an idiot !





There's a chance you might not like me ,

but there's a bigger

chance I won't care
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