Re: Avoiding oppressive terminology...

From: Xxxx Xxxxx
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2020 6:06 PM
Subject: Avoiding oppressive terminology in our Product, Infrastructure and Methodologies


The time is now to end use of oppressive terminology such as Whitelist, Blacklist, Master Branch, HR as Master,… in our Product, Infrastructure and Methodologies.

Today I was on email threads from customers, marketing and engineering/product that are coalescing into a unified effort lead by Xxxxxx. More to come.

On a personal note, I have committed to no longer using the phrase “throat to choke” when looking for an owner that can be held responsible for ensuring a group of people act on a decision or deliver on a goal. In hindsight, it was already tasteless, and with the killing of Eric Garner it is now clearly completely unacceptable.




I know your heart is in the right place, but I am certain that these language changes are performative, not effective. At the end of the day, they will do nothing to change the demographic stats at this company. And there are some significant downsides:

  1. Moving to new language means that everyone will have to know yet another term for the same thing. We can’t change the terms overnight, and not every library we depend on will change. Everyone will still need to know what “blacklist” means, because they will encounter it in their work.
  2. The changes will pollute the git history, making git blame and git log less convenient.
  3. These renames will create a significant amount of extra work, distracting us from making things customers want. That means less growth and less hiring.

Moreover, I can’t help but notice the double standard regarding which language is changed. For example: Around 1/3rd of Americans believe that abortion is murder, yet anyone who petitions to strike the word “abort” from technical terms is dismissed outright (as they should be). This is also true for many references to alcohol, religion (daemon), and even filicide (killing a child process). Heck, “git” originally meant “bastard”, yet nobody seriously considers renaming that tool to avoid offending those born out of wedlock.

In all of the examples I gave, people have the maturity to know that terms have multiple meanings and that historical connotations aren’t implied when using these terms in a modern context. And we correctly recognize that anyone who is offended by “abort” or “daemon” or killing a child process is so determined to be offended that they are not worth placating. If you accommodate them this year, they’ll be upset about other terms next year. So too it is for those professing their outrage over terms like “master” or “whitelist”.

Again, I know your heart is in the right place. We want the same thing: to get to a world where attributes such as race and sexual orientation matter as much as hair color or handedness. It is for that reason that I urge you to reconsider your stance.


Geoff Greer