It isn't unusual for any of us to feel pangs of regret while thinking about past behavior, and Paul McCartney is no different.

The former Beatle looked back during a recent interview with the Daily Mail, reflecting on the casually racist language that he — and many of the people he knew — used without thinking about how his words might affect others. "When I was a kid, you were racist without knowing it," he explained. "It was just the normal thing to use certain words you wouldn't use now."

Like many members of his generation, McCartney eventually came to understand the error of his ways — part of a maturing and enlightening process shared that helped inform the civil rights struggle of the era. "Along the way we suddenly realized how it would make the people you were talking about feel. I don't think until then we'd ever even thought about other people," he admitted. "It was like a joke between ourselves. But then someone points out, 'Well, that’s denigrating … ' you know, in my case, black people. And then the penny drops, and I think that's what happened for a lot of people. Certainly a lot of people in my generation used to use words you wouldn't use now."

McCartney also went on to defend the language used by his recent recording partner Kanye West, arguing that when West says things Mccartney might regret having said, it has a different meaning.

"The n-word, to a lot of black people, particularly younger black people, it's almost a term of endearment," he mused. "It's a slang word, and I think the good thing about it is that it kind of takes the sting out of it. It just becomes a word, rather than the derogatory word it could be used as."

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