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Multiple Meanings

We’ve been good to ’em, we’ve bailed ’cause out of jail and out of debt since the beginning of time, we’ve made work for ’cause when there was no work, we’ve encouraged ’cause to better themselves, they’ve gotten civilized, but my dear— that veneer of civilization’s so thin that a bunch of uppity Yankee Negroes can shatter a hundred years’ progress in five….
Harper Lee  --  Go Set a Watchman
a thin layer of superior wood glued to a base of inferior wood;
or: any thin layer added to make something look better

Note that veneer can also be used metaphorically, as in "Don’t let her veneer of kindness deceive you."
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