First person

I’m black and all my exes are white. Does that make me racist?

Years ago, when I was struggling through a brutal frog-kissing phase, a friend helped me compile a dealmakers-over-dealbreakers love list, complete with illustrations.

We spelled out (and drew) all of the musts for my future Mr. Right: 1) Must be smart. 2) Must be funny. 3) Must be financially independent. 4) Must be out of the closet. 5) Must love pop culture. I can still remember the animated Jennifer Lopez–big booty included–that we used to illustrate No. 5. My Mr. Right would have had to get that.

For all the ground we covered, we never touched on race. When I pictured the man of my dreams, he had certain character qualities but no physical ones. He was a man without a face. Skin color never entered my mind. It still doesn’t. If you lined up the guys I’ve dated and slept with over the years, it would look like a massive Benneton ad. That multi-cultural slant; however, doesn’t apply to the ones with whom I’ve gotten serious. They’ve all had one thing in common: They’ve all been white.

Related: 10 things you should never say to a black guy on Grindr

How can someone who preaches equal-opportunity dating have such a whitewashed ex list himself? It’s a question I’ve been asked many times since I began writing about race and sexual attraction. In fact, it echoes a question that goes back to my virginal days on the playground: “Why do you only hang out with white people?” my black classmates often asked me. The question always seemed unfair as it wasn’t one my white classmates ever had to answer. Had my childhood pals all been black, nobody would have noticed. Wasn’t putting racial expectations on my social circle just a form of stick-with-your-own-kind racism?

I had no checklist when it came to making friends. But while many of my black classmates were sizing up my blackness and ridiculing my Caribbean accent and my fey ways (like Chiron in the newly minted Best Picture Moonlight, my childhood bullies were overwhelmingly black), the white ones were generally making more of an effort to get to know me. They became my friends almost by default. My adult social circle has expanded to include more colors and nationalities, but the black kids on the playground probably would still “tsk tsk” at the company I usually keep.

Surely they’d disapprove of my ex files even more. As I’ve lived around the world, often in countries with a minuscule number of black people, my boyfriends have all been white and Latino. (During my four and a half years in Buenos Aires, I kissed exactly three white non-Latinos, one of whom was a visiting friend from my University of Florida days.) Does that make me as racist as those I call racist for putting “No Asians” in their Grindr profiles?

In a word, no. You can’t base accusations of racist solely on a person’s friends and lovers. Well, you can, but that doesn’t make it an indisputable fact. An Asian woman isn’t automatically racist because she’s only been with Asian men; nor is a white person who’s dated only white people.

Related: If your dating profile says “No Asians” then you’re a “trash gay,” Korean comedian says

Your dating past and present doesn’t make you racist, but your dating future does when it’s predetermined by race. There is a difference between someone, like me, who has only seriously dated white men, and someone who only seriously dates white men. The former is about past and possibly present experience, while the latter indicates self-imposed limitations that encompass past, present and future.

Sexual racism involves active exclusion. When you make a point of banning an entire racial group from your pool of dating possibilities–no blacks, no whites, no Asians, no whatever–then you’ve waded into racist waters. Minorities shouldn’t be held to different dating standards than everyone else. If we’re not going to demand that gay white men date within their so-called race, we shouldn’t turn around and pin that same expectation on men of color.

As beautiful and essential as Moonlight was for finally bringing gay black love to movie screens, the romantic relationship at its center doesn’t reflect every gay black man’s personal experience, nor does it have to. If we all grew up in an apparently all-black Moonlight world, maybe it would. In the end, the people we date and with whom we fall in love are determined by a confluence of factors. It’s not our choice alone. They choose us as much as we choose them. I’ve pursued guys who were white, black, Asian, and Middle Eastern who, in turn, rejected me. You can’t always get what you want.

The men I call my exes are not completely representative of whom I would date. But for whatever reason, the guys I attract, the ones who approach me and the ones who accept my advances, both online and offline, tend to be white and in their twenties. Maybe I play a subconscious role in what I attract–perhaps I give off vibes that make them click. But it’s not something I’m interested in challenging and changing just so that I can meet someone else’s black-boyfriend quota.

Related: The ageist contradiction: If you’re not looking for an “oldie,” why did you Grindr me?

Who knows what the next man of my dreams will look like? He may be white. He may be black. He may be Asian. He may be a Martian. Well, considering that I’m living on planet Earth, and I call Australia home, he’ll probably be human and white.

And he’ll probably say “mate” a lot. But I’m totally open to the completely unexpected, no matter what color he comes in.

Jeremy Helligar is the author of Is It True What They Say About Black Men?: Tales of Love, Lust and Language Barriers on the Other Side of the World. You can tweet him @Theme4Gr8Cities

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  • cory_orsborn

    this is exactly me , WOW!!….i think it depends on where u grew up and your enviorment…mostly all my friends were white in high school and maybe thats y subconsciously i tend to date and sleep with white but dosent mean im not attractive to all guys….but i agree ppl are to caught up in who ppl date and ppl need to stop saying no this or no that, do what i do ignore the person if ur not into.

  • DCguy

    Oh give me a break. Maybe the guy lives in a mostly white area, maybe he goes to clubs that mostly white people go to. Or maybe he is more attracted to a certain look or hair color that happens to be more common in white people.

    You could ask the same question of a black man who has dated only black guys and the answer would still be that it is a ridiculous question. Unless he is saying he’ll only date white guys because he hates other races then the answer is most likely no, he isn’t racist. Sheesh.

    • Kangol

      He isn’t. He also needs to see Get Out. LOL

  • Chris

    No; it just makes you human.

    However, may I take this tortured logic, repackage it, and sell it to Silicon Valley? I’d make a killing: ….. “When we started this company, we created a list of our top five characteristics for all our hires. We did not have faces in mind, just personality and intelligence traits. ….. Now, as we look back, we’ve hired white men, exclusively. Does that make us racist or sexist? No because, moving forward we’re OPEN to the idea of hiring women, minorities. It’s just that we haven’t.” ….. Mr. Author, mate, you could make some big bucks selling this elixir to companies throughout the world.

    Or, you could simply acknowledge that issues of race, misogyny, and the like play themselves out very differently in our personal love-lives and that, just maybe, -isms don’t apply in the same ways as they apply in the social worlds of work and citizenry.

  • davidkohl

    For me, you are not being racist. You are doing what we all do – being attracted to people. Years ago I worked with a Black lady that I had a good friendship with – we both worked in a psychotherapeutic unit that prided itself on having great understanding of racism. One day we were talking about partners and I was saying my partner at that time was a Black guy. She stared at me for a moment and then said ‘ I would never have a White partner’. When I asked he why not she said that was just her choice. Fair enough. Later she came back to me and said that only a Black person could understand her in the way she needed them to.
    At first I was a bit offended that I was being excluded from her potential partners – even though I am gay and she was straight! But the more I thought about the more I could understand the point her right to decide what kind of partner would suit her. We all do this in one way or another- we exclude people based on colour, age, body shape and so on. These choices are personal choices that affect only our lives – it is not to be compared to institutional discrimination which affects millions of people and is based on nothing more than bigotry, arrogance, lack of education, economic greed and history.

  • Shadeaux

    I use to date only white guys. It just happened to work out that way. I got called the “N” word once in an argument and I’ve never dated a white guy since. I’ve been called that many times in the south by white people and it never really bothered me. I always thought it was their issue. When he went off on me and said that because I found out HE WAS/IS MARRIED to a woman, that kinda rearranged my whole thought process. They are still sexy to me, (as are all races), but I’ve always made sure it stayed on a friendship basis with other races. It gave me PTSD of sort. LOL

    • JerseyMike

      He had to show you who he really was for you to find other black men to be worthy of your time.. WOW!!

    • DarkZephyr

      I am very sorry that happened to you, f**king terrible.

  • Tracy Pope

    Wow. It took that long-winded article (and thought process) to come to the simple and obvious conclusion. Oof.

  • JerseyMike

    When you can’t date someone who looks like you (black, white, Latino, Asian, etc) there is a problem. How can you exclude your ethnicity out of your dating pool because are not attracted to that look and find yourself as the only attractive one in that race. What does that say about how you view yourself. You can’t look at all men of your own race as unattractive, unworthy of dating and see yourself as attractive or worthy. Impossible!!

    • Kangol

      Yep. Well said.

    • DarkZephyr

      OK, but what about people of one race who find people of another race particularly hot? For instance, I find men of all races attractive, but Latin men make my heart skip an extra beat. That being said, my boyfriend happens to be blazing white and I love him dearly and wouldn’t trade him in for anybody and I find him perfectly sexy, but yes, Latin men just have a little bit of an extra spark for me. And when it does come to white men, I prefer white men with dark brown or black hair, but I find guys with any hair color attractive. My boyfriend has very light brown hair.

    • JerseyMike

      @Darkzephyr: There isn’t race of people that I can say there isn’t beauty there.. Not one.. if you are a white man and you don’t find white men attractive, I think that is a problem. That says a lot about how you view yourself. That goes for Black, Asian and Hispanic men. I don’t have a problem with interracial dating at all. Having lived NY most of my adult life I have had my share of the rainbow and will continue to until I’m dead. I think there is something wrong when you can’t find beauty and love in someone who looks like you.

    • DarkZephyr

      @JerseyMike, well I do agree with you there. I don’t hate white man and I don’t refuse to take them obviously had to take them because my boyfriends wait. But I definitely have a slight preference towards Latin men. But it doesn’t stop me from dating my own race or other non-Latin races and being able to see the beauty in them. I’ve had Black boyfriends, and of course Latin boyfriends, white boyfriends, etc. this is my second majorly serious relationship where I felt like this person is the one. And he happens to be white. My last major relationship was with a middle Eastern guy, a Muslim. Sadly his extremely and sometimes violently homophobic family got in the way.

    • DarkZephyr

      Wow. I hope you can understand what I was trying to say above. Apparently using speech to text for something like this is unwise.

  • Neonegro

    Dude, nobody cares who you date or have sex with.

    The need for you to write all this shows that you have some insecurity issues.

    It is a short life, don’t worry about what other people think of your private decisions.

    • Frank

      AGREED…this constant public discussion if you are racist is bland and stupid but most importantly TRITE…

      If you are not calling blacks, asians, whites, hispanics, etc racist and/or insulting names or giving them more credit because they are something else…get your groove on and keep on stepping!!!

      Life is WAY to short to be asking strangers HOW you should feel and more importantly WHAT they feel about your life and the choices you have made.

    • SonOfKings

      People use the phrase “Life is too short…” Whenever they are trying to short circuit or derail a discussion they don’t like. By your same logic, “life is too short…” For you to have wasted time commenting. Yet, here you are in the comment section taking time out of your “short life” to offer your two cents. If you have an argument to make for or against gay black men dating white men exclusively, make THAT argument. But don’t use the “life is too short” excuse. That is not an argument.

    • Neonegro

      SonofKings; which part do you not get?

      We are telling the whiner that we and most people don’t care who he sleeps with.

      In addition, we are telling him that life is too short to let other people’s views prevent him from enjoying and living your life the way you see fit.

      He is looking for opinions and we gave him ours.

      If you feel the need to make an argument for or against interracial dating, go for it.

      But don’t tell others how to respond.

  • dean3000

    It doesn’t make you really boring and self centred. Get a hobby

    • dean3000


  • jkthsnk

    I’m so tired of this topic. Love/fck who you want. However, if you’re denying access in any other area based on the perception of race I’m happy to show up at your doorstep and shove the law down your throat. .

    • SonOfKings

      If you are so tired of the topic, then why are you bothering to comment?

  • Kangol

    Why does Queerty keep pushing this as the only topic–if they’re not writing about RuPaul–when it comes to gay men of color? It’s really racist, Queerty–these guys aren’t racist, but this site is in only featuring this topic and almost nothing else (or it’s about some rando straight black celeb saying something homophobic, or body shots of straight men of color, etc.).

    Look in the mirror, Queerty, please, and start covering some of the many other positive things that gay, bi, trans and questioning men of color are doing. Not all are agonizing every five seconds about dating or being in relationships with white men!

  • Xzamilloh

    Yay, more identity politics… as if we need more label-segregating nonsense in the LGBT community. Ironic how we’re more race-obsessed in a time in history when it should not matter as much as it does.

    • Ksb1978

      You know how LGBT men/women fought for visibility and acknowledgment for their rights? And still do? Well LGBT people of color are trying to tell you the LGBT community is more than white gays that get 99.9999% of queer magazine covers, stories, advertising, you name it. We’re looking for visibility and acknowledgment too. Whenever white men cry identity politics what you’re saying is you don’t want to lose your place as number one in society. Fragile.


      @Ksb1978 Nice simultaneous triggered and “problematic” combo. I’ll let X explain why! That’s assuming he cares to ..we really shouldn’t ASSUME anything ;)

    • DarkZephyr



    • Xzamilloh

      Great., KSB… go tell that to a white man, because my black ass is not interested in crying to the white man about “Notice me, too”, “Find me attractive”, “Hey, put me on your magazine covers”… namely because I burned myself trying to be liked be everyone and trying to please all walks of life, and now I just do me. Sorry, but I just don’t care about being noticed in a gay white man’s world because that’s seeking validation from others, not organically earning your time to shine. The only fragile person I see is you, so quick to assume that I’m white because my opinion runs counter to yours.

  • Ksb1978

    It makes you a child of the European standard of beauty. Our own queer people of color would rather date white men/women because it’s ingrained in our brains that we are not desirable. That our dark skin is not beautiful or sexy. People need to own up to their own bigotry.

    And why is it that every time Queerty does a story involving black/brown LGBT people, it’s in relation to racism on Grindr or any negative aspect of being black/brown in the LGBT community? Outside of RuPaul and now Moonlight, there are black/brown gay couples. There are black/brown positive stories. But this is Queerty, where white cis gay/straight men reign supreme.

  • SonOfKings

    Dude, you are a hot, neurotic, maladjusted mess. You need to find a therapist, a glass of wine, a sexy Black man, and your own Black maleness in any order, and sooner rather than later.

  • Kenn

    I can identify with your experience and encounters (and can add a generation or two of experiences to back it). I came out to my parents as gay black man in the 70’s (less than a decade after Stonewall and just before the beginning of the AIDS crisis). My father (in particular) needed time to digest to my confession (which came about by him asking, “Who are you bringing home for Thanksgiving”?) When I told him it would be my White-Jewish boyfriend, he poured himself a glass of scotch and then we shared the news with Mother.
    I should preface this by saying, that I grew up on a predominately White block, but attended a school that was 75% White and 23% Black. As I retold the declaration of my sexual orientation to my Mother, Dad (now on his third glass of scotch) interjected with, “Don’t you know any Black gays?”
    I responded with, “I do, but they were not interested in me”. He let it go for the moment, (as I am certain he had enough to process in his head).
    That relationship ended a year and a half later. Then (like yourself), I dated a variety of men from different cultures and ethnicities, but all of my long term relationships were with White men. (And these men were of various body type and coloring… blond, redhead, bald, Northern European and Mediterranean).
    The one thing they all had in common was me. They wanted me as much as I wanted them. We shared similar political, ethical. spiritual beliefs and social views. That is what drew me to these men and them to me.
    In my late 20’s I gave up explaining to other people my “penchant to be paired with White men”,
    I am now a gay Black man of a certain age, happily partnered with husband of French/Slovac descent for the past 21 years. What we’ve learned over the past two decades is that our families are more alike than different and we thankful for their mutual love, support and acceptance….so much so, that recently a woman made a comment to my cousin (about my husband) saying, “Girl! I didn’t know you had White folks in your family”!. My cousin’s response was, “JD’s not White. He’s just light skinned”. And we’re done here.

    • Chris

      beautiful ending

  • JerseyMike

    I love how black men who only date white men love to say other black men are not interested in me.. That’s a lie and you know it.. You were not interested in them and you used that excuse. I DONT HAVE A PROBLEM WITH INTERRACIAL DATING but do have a problem with people lying about why they don’t date someone that looks like them.. Just tell the fcuking truth and say that your race is unattractive to you. Stand front of a mirror and say all the reasons you don’t date someone who looks like you.

    • SonOfKings

      Yes! This is all so disingenuous. He knows damn well that he loves White men from the rooter to the tooter, and will always choose White even if ten Black men of equal or greater quality and interest should suddenly appear. He has been preferring and seeking White over men of his own race all of his natural life, and will continue to do so.

    • Kenn

      Let me make this clear for you gentlemen, when I say that “black men weren’t into me”, I mean this (precisely):
      They were interested in having sex with me (and depending on whether I told them I owned my own business or I was a dancer, they immediately made assumptions as to who would “top whom”. I’d ask them out for a date, dinner or theater…and many of them had already made up in their mind “where the evening was going to end”.
      Now to be even more precise to your snarky remarks, I have dated men of various races including Black men, and one of them (in fact is a Black man whom I dated for nearly a year…until his wife showed up at my job)!
      So don’t presume to know “this Black man’s story”.
      We have enough people in the world giving us shit, do have to be snarky bitches to each other as well!?
      Wishing you a good day and I hope you find your happiness in whatever shade makes you happy.

  • IDoNotHaveToAgreeWithYou

    No, unless you are one of these douchebag black guys that’s always bitching because some white guys only like white guys.

    • davidkohl

      your language is insulting and unhelpful.

    • IDoNotHaveToAgreeWithYou

      Speaking of douchebags.

  • davidkohl

    This person is not deliberately excluding men of colour from his relationships, nor does he say that he does not find men of colour unattractive – read what he says before giving him a hard time. I can identify with him because my experience is similar – but from a white perspective. I find many White men sexy and gorgeous, But I find Black and Asian and Latino and Mid-Eastern men even more gorgeous and sexy. If I met the ‘right’ person it would not matter what his skin colour is. It would be fair to say that I just find a huge range of men sexy and gorgeous – I don’t limit myself because I don’t have a limited mind. Relationships with anyone will be complex and require a lot of learning . If people want to limit themselves that is their choice – and vice versa. We cannot tell people who they should be having relationships with.

    • SonOfKings

      “We cannot tell people who they should be having relationships with.” Of course we can. We do that all the time, and all over the world. The first job I ever had specifically spelled that out in the employee Code of Conduct. When people open up their lives for discussion, they are fair game to have their choices examined, analyzed, and for others to form opinions about their choices and preferences.

  • Godabed

    The author made some interesting points. 1. He dates all kinds of men, but only have serious relationships with white men. 2. Is he being racist, no 3. He has no exclusion policy as far as dating, buy has standards for dating.

    So he’s not racist clearly, but he is feeding into racist ideals. I grew up in a predominantly black community, the culture is much different from a white community, harder aka tougher, because in life it’s just a reality that you have to face as a black child. Those who grow up in predominantly white communities (which i moved to when i was older) don’t have those same cultural experiences. People tell you stupid things like they don’t see color or you’re not really black “insert subtle racist excuse” the reality is our culture favors white men, they are the most desirable, the fairer the skin the more the perception of you being desired. Some suburban blacks believe this as compliments, a form of acceptance. Or they buy the media influence, societal influence.

    Fetishism, young white men tend to hit on me, but because they want to experience what it’s like to be with a black guy. I’ve dated men and women of all races, only white men seem to desire black men specifically for their skin. When black men usually date only black men it’s usually explained to me that their is an understanding of shared life experience, you don’t have to explain certain things that someone outside of a POC wouldn’t understand. And that’s true, the non POC partner would need to be an ally.

    Bottomline it’s still structural and systematic racism that reinforce the idea that blackness is the least desired and white men are still the most desired, most deserving of love and opportunity.

    • Neonegro

      I only seek black men specifically because of their color. I have this mad attraction to dark skin and negroid features.

      It has nothing to do with shared experience as different black ethnic groups have different life experiences.

      I am black (caramel complexion)…does that make me a racist? I could not care less…the dick wants what the dick wants.

  • Black Pegasus

    I googled the author of the piece just to get a better perspective of the guy before forming an opinion. Jeremy Helligar is an author and contributor for some gay publications including Huffpost. He has lived in NYC for 15 years and now lives in Sydney Australia. He’s lived and worked in several countries over the years and fashions himself as a “traveler.”

    Now, After reading some of his interviews I get the distinct impression that he is indeed a Snow Queen who will never view Black men who look like himself as desirable or worthy of his affection. Gay men of all races are damaged, and the added dysfunction of racial preferences has only made us even more sickening to deal with.

    • SonOfKings

      You have it exactly right. I don’t believe a Black man dating White men exclusively, throughout their entire adult lives, is purely accidental. I get the distinct inpression that he prefers White men, and will always choose White, because he sees those men as better than his own kind.

    • JerseyMike

      I read some of his previous writing as well. I noticed he loves to talk about racism in the gay community. Ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black? Lmao!!

  • gregor_clemens

    I wonder what the clap-back would be if a white man had written that article…..

    Actions always speak louder than words – saying ‘I’m not racist’ while racially profiling your partners doesn’t make it okay – it makes you in fact racist.

    • cory_orsborn

      u r a STUD!!!

  • Captain Obvious

    No one ever poses this question in reverse. If a white guys dates only black men, Asian men, etc nothing is said. It’s only when someone else dates white guys that it’s a problem and you hate yourself.

    How is it white guys aren’t racist or don’t hate themselves if they date exclusively non-white people? Everyone else is somehow broken inside if they identify more with white guys on an intimate level but in the reverse it’s totally fine. These questions are what’s racist.

    It’s racist to deny a person the right to date who they like on the basis of ethnicity or skin color. People really need to learn to mind their own business and tend to their own garden.

    • SonOfKings

      You said: “People really need to mind their own business and tend to their own garden.”

      Really? How dense can you be, considering the context?

      The author of the piece INVITED the opinions, reactions, and commentary of others by posting his article and opening up his life in such a public manner.

      It’s not as if he was quietly sitting in a corner and people nosed into his business unsolicited.

      It’s not your place to try and shut the discussion down by telling people not to express and opinion, when THEY WERE ASKED to do so.

    • surreal33

      When a white guy only dates/has sex with black guys it usually a fetish. They do not view the person a color as real just an object for sexual gratification.

    • JerseyMike

      If you look above you will see where I made this statement: “if you are a white man and you don’t find white men attractive, I think that is a problem. That says a lot about how you view yourself. That goes for Black, Asian and Hispanic men”

  • Gotchanoone

    If someone is sexually attracted to a specific person or persons, you can’t call them racists. Their sexually attraction(s) is a biological right and they shouldn’t be condemned for it. End of story. However, if they use their sexual attraction(s) to blatantly put others down or make others feel excluded, then yes, it can come across as racist. For example, instead of listing in a profile who you don’t want to hear from, talk about instead who you prefer to hear from. And if someone either responds to you online or hits on you in public that you know you’re not sexually attracted to, just be polite and say you’re not interested. You don’t have to go into the details of why, or tell them you’re not sexually attracted them. Because like in most conversations, somethings are best left unsaid.

    • SonOfKings

      “Their sexually attractions is a biological right…”

      That has to be one of the clumsiest, most illogical statements I’ve see on Queerty,

      I’m not sure people have “biological rights.” But in any case, I doubt racial preferences in dating are caused by biology. I’ve never heard of a Black man with “White man loving” genetics.

  • surreal33

    Wow, yet another lame, inane, article framing racism as a revelation. Men who only date or have sexual relations with a particular race is the definition of racism. You can sugar-coat your “preference” however, in your heart of hearts you know the truth. The foundation of America is racism and as soon as we can acknowledge this glaring fact then we can have a real conversation without subterfuge.

  • brando_calrissian

    I believe the author is confusing racism with prejudice- specifically his view of the black community based on bullying his received growing up.

    By the fifth paragraph he states, “…my childhood bullies were overwhelmingly black…” with additional examples of conflicts & misunderstandings from both sides.

    Therefore, I’m left to assume that the amount of ridicule he received growing up, along w/ the ability to properly deal with it, marred his opinion of the black community in a way more profound than he’s able to recognize. A good deal of who we are now is a result of the decisions made by who we were.

    It seems these recurring incidents from his youth had a negative effect on his level of interaction with the black community as a result of ’perceived’ ostracization from the entire group versus a segment of it.

    The level he currently exhibits with blacks leaves room to cohabit but not connect on a deeper, emotional & intellectual level required for romantic kindling. This is a misleading appearance of acceptance as a result.

    For example, having Asian friends but refusing to date Asian men based on an misinformed or deliberately nefarious stereotype about them isn’t racist, it’s prejudiced because if that factor about them didn’t exist in your mind then your apprehension towards them wouldn’t exist in real life. So ask yourself, on Grindr, what is your ‘preference’ actually based on and how can an ENTIRE race fall into that category?

    Which leads me to this, I think there’s something he’s not saying or admitting in regards to how he feels about the black community as a whole. Once he properly addresses that, the answers won’t be too far behind.

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