| Tags: politics, programming

Political correctness in Linux

if contains(blacklist, item) {
	return;
}
...

Just saw Landuke's video about the Linux kernel banning terms like "blacklist" and "slave", replacing them with terms like "blocklist" and "secondary". While Landuke has some points, I am slightly more in favour of the change, possibly because I don't feel as much ownership of the current version of the English language.

"Blocklist" is more self-descriptive than "blacklist". A non-native speaker who is a programmer of colour may encounter "blacklist" for the first time, see how the code blocks things that match the list, take it as confirmation of their assumption that the authors are racist, and due to that assumption become offended. That assumption is malicious in this context, but making it less trigger-prone while making the terminology more direct is fine.

The "slave" metaphor is even more universally offensive, even though it is used in a neutral way. Restricting its use to the original meaning is fine by me. My suspicion is that the term's use was more prevalent due certain people's bedroom fantasies.

The Linux kernel code by itself is of course a minuscule fraction of works in the English language containing those terms. But it is a kind of living document and one of the code-bases of that size with the most eyes on it.

Taking this historical moment to make thought through changes is okay. Interpreting defensiveness against it as racism is malicious. Actual racism is not okay, and destroying other people's property is not okay.

Telling other people what to think is not okay.. ;)