In an article on The New Stack in June, Jennifer Riggins discussed recent decisions by some tech companies to phase out the use of exclusionary language. For example, Android and GitHub have announced that they will switch from the use of “master” to “main,” and other organizations and projects are following suit.
These steps stem in part from efforts to show tangible support for Black Lives Matter. At times, however, Riggins said, “it is virtue signaling, a relatively easy way to show a company supports the movement. In still other cases, employees have been long wanting to make a change to the outdated language, and now is the perfect time to appeal to decision-makers about this.”
“Language is what defines us as human beings. So when a language sees a change, it’s a sign of something more. Because, whether it’s books or code, words leave a legacy,” Riggins said.
In an article on TechWire, Chris Wright, Chief Technology Officer at Red Hat, wrote: “If open source is truly meant to be inclusive and a place where anyone can participate, it must truly be welcoming to all. These are large challenges that large communities must respond to in order to drive systemic change.”
Wright said that Red Hat has committed to reviewing the company’s use of problematic language. Toward this end, he noted that the Ansible community is renaming its “master” branch to “main” and phasing out the use of the terms “whitelist” and “blacklist” in favor of “allowlist” and “denylist.”
We hope these semantic corrections will help raise awareness of widespread exclusionary practices and spur further meaningful change.