God's Politics

God's Politics


Ryan Beiler: Who’s Articulate? Who’s Mainstream?

posted by gp_intern

I woke up to the NPR report this morning that Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Joseph Biden had shot himself in the rhetorical foot with the following remarks in an interview with The New York Observer:

I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.

Biden has issued the typically passive Washington non-apology apology for these remarks: “I deeply regret any offense my remark in The New York Observer might have caused anyone.” (Why not apologize for the stupidity of the remarks, rather than the offense they caused?) But though praising a United States Senator for being “bright and clean” may have been the most obviously offensive of Biden’s words, President Bush’s similar praise for Obama in an interview with Neil Cavuto the same day on Fox News – “He’s an attractive guy. He’s articulate” – echoes more insidious underlying assumptions.

NEWS FLASH TO WELL-MEANING WHITE FOLKS: When you praise people of any minority or ethnicity for being “articulate,” you’re suggesting that you have deeply held stereotypes about people that don’t look like you that are only overcome by what you see as noteable exceptions. Or that “articulate” doesn’t mean, as Webster’s suggests, “able to speak; expressing oneself readily, clearly, or effectively,” but rather, “I expected you to talk like a black person, but you speak just like I do! Way to go!”

Everyone, please stop doing this.

Praising minorities for being “articulate” and similarly intended remarks are common, and once you’re sensitive to them, you’ll hear them everywhere, even in the most well-meaning liberal institutions. I was at a conference of Mennonite academics and young people examining attitutes toward scripture, where a young white male professor from one of our most progressive colleges praised the only African American woman in the room for being “so articulate.” Speaking to her later about it, she confirmed my own discomfort at his remarks. Similarly, Asian American and Latino friends tire of surprised remarks regarding their lack of accent.

I can hear the groans – “great, yet another word the PC Thought Police won’t let us use – even when we’re trying to be nice!” Yes and no. All I ask is that you practice being articulate yourself: Choose your words carefully, and be aware of how they may be interpreted. And if challenged, be honest with yourself about your own prejudice – the prejudice that infects all of us. I am the chief of sinners, and confess that I constantly grapple with the stereotypical fears, lowered expectations, etc. that I’ve inherited from a society permeated with prejudice. This may seem unfair, but it is the responsibility of those who have been given unfair privilege and power by that society to go the extra mile.

For his part, Obama has responded verrrrry graciously:

I didn’t take Senator Biden’s comments personally, but obviously they were historically inaccurate. African-American presidential candidates like Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun and Al Sharpton gave a voice to many important issues through their campaigns, and no one would call them inarticulate.

This assumes, reasonably so from the context of his remarks, that Biden was speaking primarily about black presidential candidates and not all African Americans. But for the record:

Is he saying that Carol Moseley Braun wasn’t “mainstream” even though she represented the fifth largest state (in population) in the U.S. Senate? Is he saying that Jesse Jackson wasn’t “mainstream” even though he won 11 primaries in 1988 and 6.9 million votes? The population of Delaware is 783,600. Heck, [Jackson] won Michigan with 55% of the vote.

And if by “mainstream,” Biden meant “someone who has a snowball’s chance in Hades of getting elected president of the United States,” he may find himself on the outside of that category himself.

UPDATE: In fairness to Sen. Biden, a friend informs me that his legislative record testifies to his genuine concern for and efforts on behalf of people of color. I have no doubt of that. My point is that many people – myself included – may have the best of intentions, but still need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves when discussing these issues, because fairly or unfairly, our words have disproportionate power, and with that power, serious consequences. See James 3:1-12.

Ryan Beiler is the web editor for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.



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kevin s.

posted February 1, 2007 at 4:58 pm


I won my own bet. I actually like Biden (not because of this, obviously). He is an intelligent, articulate guy who has earned his rep as a straight shooter. And you cannot deny that part of Obama’s popularity stems from the fact that he is a black leader who isn’t utterly bananas (the average Joe does NOT consider Jesse Jackson, Cynthia McKinney, Al Sharpton or William Jefferson mainstream). But yeah, this will probably sink him.



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Payshun

posted February 1, 2007 at 5:09 pm


I like Biden too. He’s articulate… That said he really needs to learn how to talk when it comes to stuff like this.Saying Barak was intelligent would be fine saying he’s black, articulate… it’s like describing one’s pet. It’s like we’re still on the auction block or something. I know he did not mean it like that but damn… p



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cs

posted February 1, 2007 at 5:54 pm


“I know he did not mean it like that…” Please refer to Trent Lott’s comments in reference to Strom Thurmond. How did he mean his comments? I think perhaps the difference between responses to Biden and Lott speaks to a double standard. “We know” Biden didn’t mean it, but Lott’s racist. Really? Please examine the underlying assumptions.



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Daniel

posted February 1, 2007 at 5:55 pm


You guys better stop that – by calling Biden ‘articulate’ you’re implying that he’s an exception and that other white people aren’t articulate!!! Ridiculous.The offending part is the word “clean.” As the author concedes, to extend it to calling a black person ‘articulate’ recalls to mind the Thought Police from 1984. That’s because it IS just like that. What is being asked is NOT that we be articulate and choose words carefully, it is that we patronize black people. What is being suggested is not unlike requiring me to look at a wheelchair athlete who just won a race and say, “Gosh, he’s a nice guy. Of course all people in wheelchairs or nice. Well, not all. But having a wheelchair doesn’t affect your level of niceness. Nope. As nice as anyone else I always say!”Meanwhile conservatives say, “That dude is FAST!” I just don’t get the kind of world we’re asking for. Sojo is a movement rooted in the Prophets and the Gospels, yes? Jesus calls Samaritans “dogs” in Matthew and the Prophets are even less charitable. I’d like to see gratitude for the fact that an African American man can be seen as having an equal chance to become President of the United States – applause for progress and hope for the future instead of hand-wringing and lamentations. I’d like to see a little humility and empathy, recognition that in matters of diction and semantics we have even less authority and claim than in matters of theology, which are already inherently tentative. I’d prefer openness, honesty, and candor to carefully chosen words.



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Sacred Frenzy

posted February 1, 2007 at 6:00 pm


But though praising a United States Senator for being “bright and clean” may have been the most obviously offensive of Biden’s words, President Bush’s similar praise for Obama in an interview with Neil Cavuto the same day on Fox News – “He s an attractive guy. He s articulate” – echoes more insidious underlying assumptions. NEWS FLASH TO WELL-MEANING WHITE FOLKS: When you praise people of any minority or ethnicity for being “articulate,” you’re suggesting that you have deeply held stereotypes about people that don’t look like you that are only overcome by what you see as noteable exceptions. This is piss poor reasoning. Why does Bush, who did not link Obama’s being “articulate” to his race get lumped together with Biden, who did link Obama’s being “articulate” to his race? When you interpret the use of the word “articulate” as insinuating “I expected you to talk like a black person, but you speak just like I do! Way to go!”, you, Ryan, are the one who is racist!



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kevin s.

posted February 1, 2007 at 6:19 pm


Well, of course it has to come back to Bush. he’s the anti-Christ, after all. I don’t want to be racist, so here’s what I think. Barack Obama is an insipid media construction, whose reputation has slowly chiseled, piece by piece, in an effort to create the perfect candidate to appeal to moderate soccer moms who have never read a newspaper in their life. He is a phony. See. I’m not racist. He gets to be phony, even though he’s black.



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Daniel

posted February 1, 2007 at 6:40 pm


Kevin, Obama is no phony. I’ve never seena candidate be so honest, in fact. Just last night I read a passage in The Audacity of Hope where he talked about how flustered he was by Alan Keyes challenging his theology – “Christ would not vote for barack Obama” and “Obama supports a lifestyle that the Bible calls an abomination” and so on. He basically says that he couldn;t beat those claims back because he was unwilling to say what he really believes – a literal reading of the Bible is folly and that an obscure verse in Romans doesn’t outweight the general moral system of the Sermon on the Mount. I know you disagree with that theology – but how many people are willing to throw that out there knowing how many evangelicals near the center will be troubled by it? Let me guess – he’s just being honest as a political ploy to get more votes! If he has the audacity of hope it seems like you’ve got the refuge of cynicism. I’m going to go with Obama on this one.



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mingus

posted February 1, 2007 at 6:42 pm


“Barack Obama is an insipid media construction, whose reputation has slowly chiseled, piece by piece, in an effort to create the perfect candidate to appeal to moderate soccer moms who have never read a newspaper in their life. He is a phony.” hm, a politician who has to build a reputation to appeal to a certain group of voters and win votes? i’m sure the republicans would never do something phony like that. wake up. that’s the game.



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mingus

posted February 1, 2007 at 6:44 pm


btw – i agree, daniel. obama’s honesty and sense of purpose and morality would be a welcome change from the previous 8 years.



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suzan

posted February 1, 2007 at 6:54 pm


In the past, I have described Obama as intelligent, articulate, well-spoken, etc.,etc. Not in the sense of “for a black man”, but rather “for a politician in this day and age”. He is indeed a breath of fresh air.



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kevin s.

posted February 1, 2007 at 6:57 pm


“wake up. that’s the game.” Mingus has the refuge of cynicism, too. Obama’s public persona, and his (selective, carefully calculated) honesty is designed to distract from his very liberal voting record. And, yes, I do disagree with his theology, as do many of the moderates who admire him under the misguided belief that his spiritual beliefs gel with their own.I am aware that this is the game, and I certainly don’t fault him for wanting to play it, but let’s not pretend he isn’t playing it.



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Hali

posted February 1, 2007 at 7:10 pm


I think Beiler goes a bit far in claiming that calling Barack Obama articulate is code for “white.” The thing is, Obama IS articulate! In fact, that’s an understatement – he’s a true master of rhetoric. Have you all forgotten his speech before the DNC? How long has it been since we’ve had a Democratic leader who was so inspiring? However, Beiler is right about Jesse Jackson and Carol Moseley Braun. Calling Obama the FIRST African American to fit all those criteria is absolutely LUDICROUS. (Well, Carol Moseley Braun isn’t a good looking *guy*). He might celebrate the fact that finally America might be ready to give a black person with those qualities a fighting chance. I hope that’s the case – I just heard on the radio that according to a recent poll, 80% of Americans think the next president will (still) be a white male. [Haven't they mucked things up enough?]



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Wolverine

posted February 1, 2007 at 7:18 pm


For my money, Sacred Frenzy hit the nail on the head: comparing Bush to Biden is unfair because Biden was speaking to Obama’s race, while Bush wasn’t. Let’s try a different example to illustrate the distinction. consider the following statements: 1. Larry Bird was a great basketball player. 2. Larry Bird was a great basketball player for a white guy. Clearly the second statement contains a racial putdown (white guys can’t play basketball) that is missing from the first. Wolverine



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jesse

posted February 1, 2007 at 7:18 pm


It’s kind of understandable that people’s prejudices or misconceptions about race would pop up in discussing Obama because, even though there has been so much talk about how great he is and how much integrity he has, the facts remain that the only reason he’s even on the radar as a presidential candidate is because he is black and doesn’t sound like other black politicians who are out of the mainstream (e.g., Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton). I know some would disagree but Jackson and Sharpton do not come across as intelligent. They come across as racial demagogues, which is why they have no appeal to non-blacks in this country.In sum, the only reason we’re even discussing Obama is because he is black and he is articulate/ intelligent-sounding . Everyone knows this.He’s also very much a media creation.



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Wolverine

posted February 1, 2007 at 7:21 pm


As far as Obama himself, I don’t blame Barack for taking advantage of things, but clearly he is the latest media flavor of the month. His qualifications for national leadership — maybe half a term in the Senate? — are very lacking and he has zero experience as an executive. I understand why people like him, but I can’t take him seriously as a Presidential contender right now. Maybe in 2016. Wolverine



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Bill Samuel

posted February 1, 2007 at 7:25 pm


Well isn’t the key whether it is the kind of comment one might make about a white contender? But there is the additional factor that words might sound different depending upon the stereotypes surrounding other things that identify the person. The “clean” stood out for me because in view of not so uncommon stereotypes about African-Americans, the first thing that jumped into my mind was that Biden was referring to his showering regularly. But thinking about it, I doubt Biden had that in mind at all but was rather referring to his squeaky clean reputation on ethics. This is a major issue today, and one that frequently comes up with respect to candidates of any ethnic background. The reference would not have raised any red flags were it about a white contender, IMHO. Many of the comments made about Obama, including those of Biden and Bush, I think would not seem at all out of place if spoken about someone white who had achieved such standing in the eyes of the public so short a time after becoming really known nationally. Is there, at least at some subconscious level, something which makes the choice of words skewed by ethnicity? It’s very hard to tell. We don’t have a control in the sense of a white politician that is a close match to Obama’s characteristics other than ethnicity. What we can say for sure is that America’s history of racism does clearly affect perceptions of what people say. I don’t think Biden’s comments are comparable to Lott’s about Thurmond. Those comments referred to a specific campaign where Thurmond’s appeal was based largely on racial prejudice. Public figures should be sensitive to the context of America’s history of racism in expressing themselves. But when a public figure without any history of racial insensitivity says something that doesn’t contain anything inherently insensitive but nevertheless can sound insensitive, we probably should exercise some charity in our reaction.



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Daniel

posted February 1, 2007 at 7:32 pm


Kevin, He certainly does play the game. He talks about that extensively in the first chapter of Audacity. About how traveling in circles with wealthy people isolates the Seantor from the majority of the constituents, about how he no longer has reservations about asking strangers for money sans small talk, how he makes labor unions a priority because they are his base, etc. He puts all of it out there – the spin, the games, the phoniness, the fear of loss that drives it all – and he says he only hopes he can navigate all of it without losing his conscience or his soul.Now we can say that his being honest IS his way of spinning and controlling but my God, man, at what point do we stop expecting the worst from people and have a little faith and hope?



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Daniel

posted February 1, 2007 at 7:40 pm


“Obama is a media creation.” I thought it was worth noting that Obama acknowledges this. Also, he’s never had a negative ad run against him in a campaign. He chalks his success up in no small part to luck.



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mingus

posted February 1, 2007 at 7:41 pm


okay, so the conservatives here think obama’s a phony media creation flavor of the month who’s only in the spotlight because he’s black. great, you wouldn’t vote for him anyways. who cares?



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Payshun

posted February 1, 2007 at 7:42 pm


Bill, I agree w/ you completely. I know how I felt when I heard his comment. I was shocked, surprised and going wtf? I did not understand how a brilliant senator could use such crude language and not catch a potential meta-message.he communicated a lot of things to black people. One, he is a little out of touch w/ this issue; two that he may not know that many or spend time w/ a lot of people that don’t look like him; three he should get some more advisors. I like candor and honesty but dumb comments that can be interpreted as racist should never be used. I was offended by what he said. I know some weren’t and i understand that but I was. p



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Daniel

posted February 1, 2007 at 7:46 pm


Wolverine, Lincoln was in the Illinois House and ran for US Senate and lost and then ran for President right from the state legislature. I think not taking Obama seriously would be a mistake.



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Wolverine

posted February 1, 2007 at 8:08 pm


Daniel, Point taken. It should be noted however that Lincoln was the candidate of a new party. The GOP was only six years old when Lincoln was nominated and Republicans with national experience were in very short supply. Wolverine



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Wolverine

posted February 1, 2007 at 8:11 pm


Mingus, There’s something else that Democrats should take into account. Much of Obama’s popularity is because he has very little in the way of a record. I suspect that a lot of his popularity comes from people projecting their hopes and opinions on to him. I may be wrong, but if I were a Democrat I’d keep an eye on this. Wolverine



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Daniel

posted February 1, 2007 at 8:33 pm


Wolverine, No doubt he is helped by having a short record. Lincoln was able to shift positions in the Lincoln Douglas debates on that ccount. He argued for slavery in Chicago but against it down the rail in in southern Illinois. That would get caught in a heartbeat with modern media, thankfully. I think Obama is at least very candid about what he thinks. And he even knocks the validity of judging a politician on a long record, given that any given bill will have things you like and things you don’t and the decision is all yes or all no. In the state legislature he once pressed the wrong button and voted against protecting children from child molestors. Even though he corrected this in the record, it is perfectly legal to say that Obama voted to protect child molestors instead of their victims.



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mingus

posted February 1, 2007 at 8:52 pm


“There’s something else that Democrats should take into account. Much of Obama’s popularity is because he has very little in the way of a record. I suspect that a lot of his popularity comes from people projecting their hopes and opinions on to him. I may be wrong, but if I were a Democrat I’d keep an eye on this.” you are wrong – all you have to do is read the man’s words. it’s not like he’s been silent. the point is, with no record, you guys are going to call him inexperienced, flavor of the month, phony, popular because he’s black, etc. if he had a record, you’d call him other things. either way, he’s a democrat. you guys are not going to put any stock in his words or actions or give him any benefit of the doubt. so, again, what’s the point of this conversation? why should those of us who find him inspiring regardless of his political affiliation care what those of you firmly planted on the political right think of him?



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Rick Nowlin

posted February 1, 2007 at 9:05 pm


Speaking of Biden and Thurmond, my roommate watched Thurmond’s funeral and Biden did an eulogy. He talked about their first exchange when Biden first came to the Senate. Thurmond asked Biden, “What brings you to the Senate?” “Civil rights,” Biden answered. “Good!” Biden was puzzled, but then Thurmond explained, “Freed my soul.”



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cs

posted February 1, 2007 at 9:17 pm


Bill, I find it interesting that you are apparently referring to Biden as a “public figure without any history of racial insensitivity.” Perhaps you have forgotten his statement that “my state was a slave state?” Or, “you cannot enter a 7-11 or a Dunkin Donuts unless you have an Indian accent?” Both statements were generally panned as racially insensitive.



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mingus

posted February 1, 2007 at 9:37 pm


“His qualifications for national leadership — maybe half a term in the Senate? — are very lacking and he has zero experience as an executive.” george w. bush rode the “inexperienced outsider” wave into office in 2000 and some of you still think he’s better than sliced bread.



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Wolverine

posted February 1, 2007 at 10:27 pm


Mingus: George Bush had served as Governor of Texas. That qualifies as “executive experience, even if it was outside of Washington DC. W had experience administering government. That counts. Wolverine



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John Pehrson

posted February 1, 2007 at 10:29 pm


Articulate? Obama is, Biden is, obviously, not. Enough said.



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Sally

posted February 1, 2007 at 10:43 pm


The comment President Bush made calling Sen. Obama articulate is not to interpreted as you may think. Any assumption that Bush is articulate and that Sen. Obama is being like him when he is articulte is ridculous on its face.



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Payshun

posted February 1, 2007 at 11:50 pm


Wolverine, For texas but not for the country. That’s the problem he had no foriegn diplomacy experience and that shows. He had barely traveled anywhere. Obama has and seems to be far more at ease w/ other cultures than bush. p



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Mike Hayes

posted February 2, 2007 at 12:32 am


Ryan Beiler, Bill Samuel, and Payshun, My impression was that Joe Biden was remarking about the fact that Barak Obama would likely be perceived positively by some members of our society who otherwise might disregard a black candidate, rather than expressing his own perceptions of Barak Obama.



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James

posted February 2, 2007 at 2:16 am


From Kevin: “Barack Obama is an insipid media construction, whose reputation has slowly chiseled, piece by piece, in an effort to create the perfect candidate to appeal to moderate soccer moms who have never read a newspaper in their life. He is a phony.” From Daniel: “Obama is no phony. I’ve never seena candidate be so honest, in fact. Just last night I read a passage in The Audacity of Hope where he talked about how flustered he was by Alan Keyes challenging his theology – “Christ would not vote for barack Obama” and “Obama supports a lifestyle that the Bible calls an abomination” and so on. He basically says that he couldn;t beat those claims back because he was unwilling to say what he really believes” I come from the standpoint of one who really likes Barak Obama BUT I think that both of you gentlemen err greatly in saying that he is either a phony or sincere. The fact of the matter is that we are not close enough to make that determination.I would hope that he is sincere but knowing human nature (mine included above all) it is entirely possible that Barak Obama is projecting a persona that he is not. Time will tell. Peace, Jim



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Wolverine

posted February 2, 2007 at 2:50 am


Payshun, Look, there can only be one President at a time. Nobody’s going to have the perfect resume, life’s just too short. (The guy who came closest was probably Eisenhower — as Supreme Allied Commander he had both executive and international experience.) But all else being equal, I’d like a President to have either one or the other: significant experience on the national stage or experience running the executive branch of a state or at least a large city. Wolverine PS: Yes, I snuck that last bit in just to be sure Giuliani would make the cut.



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Joey

posted February 2, 2007 at 3:09 am


Or that “articulate” doesn’t mean, as Webster’s suggests, “able to speak; expressing oneself readily, clearly, or effectively,” but rather, “I expected you to talk like a black person, but you speak just like I do! Way to go!” Problem in your theory—if Bush says “you’re articulate,” he probably doesn’t mean “you talk like me.” :-) God bless.



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fasternu426

posted February 2, 2007 at 4:01 am


Compared to Sheila Jackson Lee (whom I’ve met 1st hand and she’s no Barak Hussein Obama) Sheila (while on a trip to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab) asked if the Mars Pathfinder had taken an image of the flag planted there in 1969 by Neil Armstrong! (we went the moon, not mars) Jackson Lee represents Houston and is a member of the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee. Sheila Jackson Lee has detected racial discrimination in the naming of Hurricanes. She says names like Hurricane Andrew, Hurricane Sam and Hurricane Wanda are just too white and, “all racial groups should be represented.”Compared to queen Sheila, yeah, I’d call him articulate!



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deborah

posted February 2, 2007 at 4:02 am


Biden’s comments were not good, but I will vote for Obama if he runs, and yes, partially because he’s articulate. I agree with Joey. I think we’ve lived with a president who can’t express himself without offending or amusing us, and we yearn for a leader who can communicate with us authentically and thoughtfully. Being African American has nothing to do with it.



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Wolverine

posted February 2, 2007 at 4:16 am


Ryan Beiler wrote: UPDATE: In fairness to Sen. Biden, a friend informs me that his legislative record testifies to his genuine concern for and efforts on behalf of people of color. I have no doubt of that. My point is that many people – myself included – may have the best of intentions, but still need to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves when discussing these issues, because fairly or unfairly, our words have disproportionate power, and with that power, serious consequences Hey Ryan: How about, in fairness to the President, you quote more than six words of his, so that we can know what the context was? Wolverine



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Mike Hayes

posted February 2, 2007 at 4:22 am


To be audacious enough to be hopeful is inspiring… at a time that most of us want to be hopeful.



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kevin s.

posted February 2, 2007 at 4:51 am


“okay, so the conservatives here think obama’s a phony media creation flavor of the month who’s only in the spotlight because he’s black. great, you wouldn’t vote for him anyways. who cares?’ Moderates. Look, I don’t make much distinction between Obama and Sen. McCain. Both are slick. Both are pretending to me mroe conservative than they really are. Both are media constructions. But this blog treats Obama as though he is royalty. This is literally the first time in several months I have seen substantive criticism of a Democrat, and I called it the night before it happened. Harry Reid’s continuing ethical problems? Not a big deal. William Jefferson’s re-election? Good stuff. Media gaffe related to the charismatic prince? Blasphemy! I have a suspicion that Obama pays Wallis for his counsel, and I would be curious to know whether that plays into the content here. If I’m wrong, then it seems that sojo is under the spell of this “media construction”.



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Donny

posted February 2, 2007 at 5:16 am


If Biden was a Republican, his bigotry would be front page news in every corner of the press. Democrats always get a pass for their racism and for any other deviant behavior.



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Mike Hayes

posted February 2, 2007 at 6:01 am


Is some of this discussion self defeating?



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Ex Pat R

posted February 2, 2007 at 7:10 am


If ever there was a tomorrow’s chip wrapper story this is it. Senator with history of putting foot in mouth puts foot in mouth. Other senator not offended. Panicking republicans start being rude about Obama. Which bit of this is news exactly?



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CindyB

posted February 2, 2007 at 8:04 am


So, would someone help me out? If someone actually is very articulate (as is Obama), and an ethnic minority, how are we to praise that talent without setting off some sort of racist accusations? Will every positive statement – he/she is articulate, well-spoken, moving, brilliant orator, etc. automatically raise suspicion of implied “for a (fill-in-the-blank)-American?Of course, when W says someone is articulate, it’s probably out of jealousy. :-o



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nickerson

posted February 2, 2007 at 1:06 pm


I like Obama. I’m afraid for him if he would be elected because the opposition will do everything in their power to destroy him.I like Sen Biden and thought his comment echoes what I think of Obama.Obama is a really nice fresh kid that just might turn the political field upside down. I like what he says in his book. The extreme positions in this country need to find the values that all American have in common. One value is common civility toward others. Biden didn’t speak from a prepared text so these kinds of words can appear. Yes, there may be a racial issue deep in his heart. But it is something that we all struggle with at this age. If you are younger and think old people are deficient in some way just wait and you too can enjoy that problem.I would like to see more substantial comments about what the politians stand for rather than whether they used a couple wrong words while speaking extemporaneosly(sp). Do they have to pass everything they say past a staff of several experts before they can say live. Give me a break. I know what Sen Biden was saying and I don’t think he was putting any body down. I think he was giving a potential competitor a good word. You have something more important to talk about then this.



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Donny

posted February 2, 2007 at 1:24 pm


The republicans are panicking because as honest hard-working Americans, they see they lies and filth of the Democrat-Left turning this country into a secular-communist state, and the lemmings folowing Democrat deceptions are being led to the slaughter. There is nothing good about the deceptions of the new Democrat socialist party. If a Republican would have even thought waht Biden did, the leftiues would have called for his resignation. Clearly, the reprobates of the Left, get to call each other whatever they want to and the Liberal media quickly eliminates any evil that accidently spilled out of a Democrat’s mouth. Like a scab over a wound, the Left quickly covers their sores. I always thought Rush Limbaugh was exagerating about these people. I’m going to have to start paying more attention to the conservatives.



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Mr. Dad

posted February 2, 2007 at 1:49 pm


Quoting James may not be a good thing to do for Liberals.Their works are debauchery and death to the unborn and secular-communism as their driving force.As teachers, these people are most condemned. It’s not a good thing to teach children to embrace abominations. Jesus had graet threats leveled at this sort of action. It is not as good thing to rename communism “taxes.”As a father of two children, I dread the very words “Democrat leadership.” It spells out bad tidings for my family.These Democrats preach about “pro” choice, but try with every breath in them, to take away freedoms and rule the populace by force of legislation or the legal process. If this isn’t a formula for conflict and a situation like that causing the American Revolution, I don’t what is. These Liberals will tax us to a point where we will have to fight back for our very lives and familes. Americans do not take a yoke easily. I have yet to see a more threatening group of people – this side of Islamic jihadists – than what the Democrats plan for America and the world. They certainly do not represent liberty for hard-working and honest people. It is more socialist dogma that drives their agenda. Americans do not want to be communists. Push us only so far Mr. and Ms. Democrats, and we will have to do what the founders of America did about their high taxation. I never thought I would live to see the day when communists would dwell so easily under the Democrat banner.



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Wolverine

posted February 2, 2007 at 2:24 pm


CindyB asks a good question: if complimenting a minority group member like Barack Obama is a putdown, how can we show appreciation when someone like Barack Obama does something really well? Another question comes to mind: Does this work in reverse? If we run Barack Obama down, does that build black people up? If I call him an idiot, does this mean that Obama’s stupidity is unusual and the typical African American is smarter? Why is all this starting to remind me of quantum mechanics? Wolverine



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Mike Hayes

posted February 2, 2007 at 3:31 pm


Kevin, The personal attacks that Donny and Mr Dad post about liberals on this blog, if restated to be about conservatives and posted on Pat Robertson’s blog would be filtered out by the moderators. I don’t think there is a conservative blog that is as open as this blog by Sojourners is. There is no moderation of the messages that are posted here… there are good and bad aspects to that openness.



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Ex Pat R

posted February 2, 2007 at 4:08 pm


Mike I think the most sensible thing to do with the likes of Donny is ignore him.I think most of the conversations here are important, if a bit monotonic so the freedom of speech thing is a good thing. If no-one rises to the personal attacks then we have a useful debate. Looking back at the Biden thing, I think it’s all a matter of where the commas are, and as the various commentators and not Biden have parsed this. I think this matters as this shows. “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American,” probably true in the sense that he is the first who looks to have a reasonable chance of nomination”" who is articulate” well, he is ” and bright” Harvard Law School ” and clean” could mean fresh or no corruption in his record both reasonable comments ” and a nice-looking guy” well beauty’s in the eye of the beholder I guess. Which is all pretty reasonable and not remotely racist. I think we can all spot the difference between correctly identifying someone with African-American heritage and Rush Limbaugh making “Halfrican American” comments



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wayne

posted February 2, 2007 at 6:09 pm


Wow! For a minute there I thought I had slipped into a time warp!



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Carl Copas

posted February 2, 2007 at 6:37 pm


Isn’t Biden’s wife African American?



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Karen

posted February 2, 2007 at 6:49 pm


So I can’t use the multi-syllabic term ‘articulate’ any more? I like Obama’s writing. I like him partly because he IS one of the most articulate writers I’ve read lately … unlike 98.5% of the kids in Mr. Dad’s Republican-run public schools. Every week in my regional newspaper, in a high-scoring school district, I get to read the vapid and nearly unintelligible verbal gruntings supposedly exhaled by local youth who apparently can’t speak English…and they were raised in the English language and trained in what’s considered a good school district. Compared to them, Obama’s use of language is exceptional. As a professional editor, I wish *I* could write as well as he does! If you think that’s racist, then that’s your problem, and not mine. If you don’t like Obama as ‘articulate,’ perhaps it’s because you haven’t spent much time reading or listening to many people’s attempts at grammar… or read our local young talent base…i.e., the voters of tomorrow. Here’s a discouraging example, if you don’t know what I’m talking about…and no, I didn’t look at skin tone or name ethnicity, I’m simply looking for anyone — anyone — who can communicate effectively!!! : http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2007/01/06/features/tempo/30-quest.txt



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B-W

posted February 2, 2007 at 6:53 pm


You might be interested in this post over a Slacktivist, which essentially agrees with the one here. However, one point of potential relevance, Slacktivist transcribes Biden slightly differently:

I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American, who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,

This is still a denial that candidates such as Jesse Jackson were mainstream, but does not link “articulate” explicitly with race. By putting that comma there, Biden could easily be saying “Obama is articulate” without linking the fact that he’s articulate to being an African-American. Without the comma, you can’t get around the connection. It’s still a pretty stupid comment, and Slacktivist thinks so too. But the grammatical possibility is worth noting.



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Payshun

posted February 2, 2007 at 7:35 pm


No, you can use the word articulate. I get that all the time. I am black so i don’t mind it so much. The problem is when people say “Your black, but your’e so articulate.” I hear many different forms of the same thing. Your black and articulate as if one can exist w/o the other or that… It feels like I have been trotted out for inspection or something and it’s lame.So if someone is articulate say it, but don’t link it to his race because there has been a long history of people using such things to play up the myth appeasing negroes that make white folks feel safe.Obama defies all of that but at the same time doesn’t seem to offend many and I give him credit for that. There are not many black men that can do that. p



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kevin s.

posted February 2, 2007 at 9:01 pm


“Obama is a really nice fresh kid that just might turn the political field upside down” Oh that is totally racist. “unlike 98.5% of the kids in Mr. Dad’s Republican-run public schools.” Public schools are almost exclusively run by Democrats. ” I’m simply looking for anyone — anyone — who can communicate effectively!!!” So you look to Billings? I’d give the kids here a break. I’ve worked with some PhDs who sound stupid with a reporter in front of them, and this particular reporter clearly didn’t take the time to make sure these kids were comfortable.



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Bruce N

posted February 3, 2007 at 12:27 am


Count this old preacher as one who is excited about the potential and hope of an Obama presidency. I haven’t felt this hopeful since I was a college student in the Texas Panhandle and JFK was running. I have read his books. Not only is he honest, brilliant, and a man of faith, he actually listens to other people. I also like Joe Biden and think he just is “inarticulate” at times, but well-intentioned. Mr. Dad and other Republicans really hate that they have to live in a community where burdens are shared and we are called to care for each other. If that’s socialism, count me in. Actually, it’s not, it is very simple Gospel.



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Mike Hayes

posted February 3, 2007 at 1:39 am


Kevin, Some conservatives want to eliminate public schools, but my guess is that most of the conservatives I know don’t advocate that.



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Mike Hayes

posted February 3, 2007 at 1:42 am


Bruce N, I agree. Having the audacity to be hopeful is refreshing!



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Timbuktoo

posted February 3, 2007 at 11:13 am


Donny: “If Biden was a Republican, his bigotry would be front page news in every corner of the press.Democrats always get a pass for their racism and for any other deviant behavior.” Got some unresolved anger issues there Donny, or are you just being funny again?



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Timbuktoo

posted February 3, 2007 at 11:17 am


Donny: The republicans are panicking because as honest hard-working Americans, they see they lies and filth of the Democrat-Left turning this country into a secular-communist state” Gotta love it Donny! I hope you’re enjoying watching it happen! Welcome to the new America- Canada remains an option. Go for it.



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kevin s.

posted February 3, 2007 at 5:44 pm


“Some conservatives want to eliminate public schools, but my guess is that most of the conservatives I know don’t advocate that.” Most conservatives want to drastically change the system. Of course, we’re not really in charge of the system, which was my point.



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Mike Hayes

posted February 4, 2007 at 4:17 am


Kevin, I don’t think any group is in charge of anything: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/153/story_15355_1.html This is about the 12 (religious) tribes of American Politics. As we all know from our acquaintences, conservative and liberal are pretty broad brushes… but useful identifiers, nonetheless. Beliefnet has quite a diversity of groups… blogs, discussion groups, and dialog groups… and I’m trying to figure out the differences among them.



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Harold

posted February 4, 2007 at 1:26 pm


I’m glad to see such passionate discussion about this article about white privilege. Interested folks should check out Peggy McIntosh’s, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Here’s a link: http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.html



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Eric

posted February 4, 2007 at 4:27 pm


Oh Donny, you’re always good for a laugh. It’d be funnier if your vitriol and paranoia weren’t serious, but I guess you can’t have everything. There are two things about the whole Biden issue that I can’t get over. (1) Everyone is saying “if this were a Republican, everybody would be talking about this!”… but everybody IS talking about this. Do you honestly think Biden would have gone on The Daily Show to try to explain his gaffe if he wasn’t worried that it was hurting him with his own supporters? The vast majority of people no longer only get their news from one source. Fox News, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc etc – they ARE mainstream media. For them to pretend to be “fighting the mainstream media” is hysterically stupid, and yet somehow they succeed in getting their listeners to feel like rebels. Whatever. (2) The other side of the “if this were a Republican” coin is that they both SHOULD be treated the same. If you want to fricassee Biden over this comment, okay, but you should have been on board with the criticism of Trent Lott or any other time a Republican made/makes a mistake like that. I actually listened to Hannity’s show (ugh) last week and he went on and on about how horrible Biden was and how “if this were a Republican, if this were Trent Lott… we can’t let this go”, but back when it WAS Trent Lott, Hannity backed him up, saying the whole thing was over “throw-away comments to be funny for a man that was 100 years old.” Utterly hypocritical. I don’t expect “the media” to be consistent and I think it’s ridiculous for anyone to. “The media”, at this point, is nothing but the howling scream of everyone with an opinion and a position to let other people hear it. But I do expect a person to be consistent. Backing up a Republican when they mess up but then jumping on Biden because “if he were a Republican everybody ELSE would jump on him” is unjustifiable. Naturally, this also means that anyone who jumped all over Lott for his comments should be equally harsh with Biden. You either hold both to account or you let both slide. Your perception of “what everyone else would do” shouldn’t factor into it.



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Adrianne

posted February 4, 2007 at 4:49 pm


The sad thing here is that the word “articulate” is being used where “eloquent” would be much more appropriate. Biden’s comments are undoubtedly racist and offensive. Bush, whom I am sure has no regard for black people, or anyone less priveleged for that matter, is decidedly less than articulate himself–who knows the deeper meaning behind his comment?



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kevin s.

posted February 4, 2007 at 6:47 pm


“Everyone is saying “if this were a Republican, everybody would be talking about this!”… but everybody IS talking about this. ” Not really, anymore and certainly not after this weekend. Further, if he were a Republican, most Democrats, and many editorial boards would be calling for his resignation. If you don’t think this is being treated differently because he is a Democrat, you really aren’t being realistic.”Fox News, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc etc – they ARE mainstream media. For them to pretend to be “fighting the mainstream media” is hysterically stupid, and yet somehow they succeed in getting their listeners to feel like rebels. Whateve” Why is this hysterically stupid? Talk show hosts aside, Fox News is one among many, the remainder of which (with the exception of NPR) tilt to the left. We can argue the merits of whether the majority of the mainstream media bends liberal, but it is not “hysterically stupid” to say that it is, considering that studies have shown it to be true.” If you want to fricassee Biden over this comment, okay, but you should have been on board with the criticism of Trent Lott” I do not want to fricassee Biden at all (I like Biden and I don’t think he is racist), and I was on board with the criticism of Trent Lott. That said, I don’t think Trent Lott needed to resign. Most of what I read from conservative columnists has been in a similar vein. I’ll concede that Hannity was probably hypocritical. Not a big fan of his. Instead of listening to Hannity, you might read find some conservative thought leaders who are worth your while. “”The media”, at this point, is nothing but the howling scream of everyone with an opinion and a position to let other people hear it.” This is, to a certain extent, true. How, then do we combat this? Does dismissing a certain viewpoint (which you later concede to be valid) as “hysterically stupid” tone down the screaming?The problem is that, in an effort to build a coalition (or a political party, or a ratings base) intellectual honesty and consistency are tossed out the window. Hannity has to back Lott and bag on Biden because that appeals to his viewership’s partisan fervor. Dailykos has to find something that Bush said and pretend it is in a similar vein in order to provide red meat for their Bush-hating readership. Sojourners pretends not to be a pro-choice organization because they have a heavy religious readership. Of course, none of this contributes to honest discussion of these issues. The antidote, then, is to ignore them in favor of substantive discussion, or to discuss them in a manner that fills in the blanks.



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Carl Copas

posted February 4, 2007 at 11:28 pm


Isn’t Biden’s wife African American?



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Eric

posted February 4, 2007 at 11:53 pm


kevin – It seems like maybe some of my comments came across as directed at you (at least part of your reply sounded like you took it that way), and that wasn’t the case. My apologies if that happened. I know you and I have had good debates before, I don’t want you to think I was trying to call you out on anything unfairly. :-) My comments about fricasseeing Biden and giving Lott a pass were directed at Hannity and the many people I heard calling in to him that day; that was simply the public response I had heard from “the right”. I’m glad to hear you (and hopefully others) are willing to treat both scenarios with an even hand. I call it hysterically stupid because while yes, Fox News is only “one among many”, their exposure and market presence do not in my opinion give them justification to act like the noble but persecuted underdog, which is what they do. They appeal to their audience by acting like martyrs fighting the great oppressive world of liberal media, and making their watchers/listeners feel like they’re part of some elite group who are in on all the secrets because they tune in. It’s dishonest and manipulative. There is very little “news you can’t get anywhere else” in today’s world – if any at all – and Fox’s programming, like anybody else’s, is only 10% news and 90% commentary/opinion on that news anyhow. However, it was not my intent to advocate dismissing their viewpoints, only criticizing them when they are blatantly hypocritical or otherwise unsound, as I was trying to do here. And I completely agree with your “antidote”, it just upsets me to no end to see how many people (as evidenced by their public commentaries on these talk shows, or on blogs, or letters to editors, or what have you) choose to ignore that substantive discussion in favor of just listening to one media voice and accepting whatever they say. Fox, more than any other media company I know of, has made a mission statement out of “listen to us and nobody else, we’re the only honest ones, we’re the only ones who won’t lie to you,” and way too many people buy into it. That’s what gets under my skin.



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Eric

posted February 4, 2007 at 11:56 pm


Sorry, forgot to mention, got wrapped up in the other things – yes, I believe much of the media is indeed treating Biden differently than they would have a Republican. And I agree that it’s unjustified. I was just upset at Fox complaining that the rest of the media is going “too soft” on Biden (in their opinion), when Fox defends Republicans under similar circumstances. We covered why and all that, just clarifying.



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kevin s.

posted February 5, 2007 at 6:26 am


“They appeal to their audience by acting like martyrs fighting the great oppressive world of liberal media, and making their watchers/listeners feel like they’re part of some elite group who are in on all the secrets because they tune in.” I agree with this, and did not feel you were addressing me personally at all. It sounds like we are on the same page on this.



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Y'hudit Leah Fuller

posted February 6, 2007 at 9:25 pm


How really odd! Does all this mean that before I can complement someone on being intelligent, articulate, clean cut, a nice person, etc. I must first check out their ethnicity – something I have pretty overlooked in the past – so as not to offend? What should I say, just a “hey you person, ah, ah, well I’m sorry just forget I was about to say anything nice”.



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Brian Ellis

posted February 8, 2007 at 8:02 am


george bush commenting on barak obama being “articulate” is like kevin federline saying that brittany spears is a musically talented. think about it!



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John Schaub

posted February 10, 2007 at 6:37 pm


I believe that most people (regardless of ethnicity) have the capacity to be articulate but are not generally articulate in practice–especially young people. I would call someone “articulate” if it were appropriate, and appreciate the compliment when someone calls me “articulate.” Criticizing Senator Biden because of what might have been a compliment unfettered by prejudice may be dishonest. I understand the urge to skewer many Republicans because of bad policies but those of us who consider ourselves progressive and honest need to set a good example by debating and criticizing honestly. We need to refrain from personal attacks and consider perceived slights carefully in order to avoid over-reacting to them.



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