re: Replacing master with main in Github VIEW POST


There are multiple angles to this issue - and most of them are not "wrong".

As others have already pointed out, it's incredibly silly to become entrenched over something as trivial (and as simple) as a name. If someone wants us to change the master branch to the main branch... fine. Whatever. I may slip up a few times and call it "master" again - but I'll get used to it. That's easy.

If my friend Joe tells me that his name is now Josina, and his pronouns are she/her... fine. Whatever. I may slip up a few times and call him "Joe" or "he", but I'll apologize and correct myself - and I'll get used to it. That's easy.

But in contrast to the infinite pile of things that I'm not qualified to speak about, I'm incredibly well-versed in the behavior of white folk. Especially: white, Anglo-Saxon, protestant, straight, male, American folk. And if there's anything that we have in common, it's the desire to make ourselves feel good over (barely) doing something - that was easy - while actively ignoring everything that's not easy. All while pulling a muscle as we pat ourselves on the back over our newfound "wokeness".

I understand that there are, unfortunately, many people out there resisting these kinds of changes (these easy changes). And quite frankly, I think that most of those people are somewhere on the spectrum between stubbornly recalcitrant and outright racist.

But this isn't just a theoretical debate. People in general - even well-meaning people - typically have only so much "mindshare" for an issue (that doesn't effect them directly) before they tire and move on. If black folk have suffered a thousand injustices in the US (and they have suffered a thousand injustices in the US), and at this particular juncture circumstances have conspired to actually make (some of) those white folk listen, which items do we want to address in that list of a thousand injustices??

Because the sad reality of race relations (in the US, at least) indicates that there's absolutely no chance that all-or-most of them are gonna get addressed any time soon. And once you change that master branch to main (or whatever), I can guarantee that a bunch of "my tribe" are gonna feel like they've accomplished something. Like that's it. Like they've done the work. And now it's time to rip off that COVID mask, head out to the tailgate, wrap themselves in the flag, and holler fer Murrica.

I would NEVER claim that, because "this black person over here doesn't have a problem with it", that this is somehow not a "problem". But I do think it's instructive to highlight some quotes that I've gotten from my own circle of (black) friends on this:

One of my black friends, whom I respect deeply:

We ask for equal and fair treatment and instead we get pandering. We asked for an end to police harassment and we get a different name and face for bottles of syrup. These measures are to make people feeling guilty sleep better at night, not to benefit us in any way. Some of it is silly.

And from another whom I equally respect:

It’s white guilt gone awry. None of us care about syrup or other product placement. We just want the cops to cut the bullshit out and the courts supporting them.

Again, just because those black people don't care about such a change in no way indicates that Alexis's concerns are unfounded - or that we shouldn't make the change. But making this change is, quite literally, the least we could do.

Finally, although I support changing the branch name, it implies a broader question about the general use of the word "master". "Master" is used in hundreds of different contexts - most of them having nothing to do, in any way, with race.

"Master" isn't some obvious slur. In fact, "master" is almost never used in any way that implies racism. If I use the word "master" - in any context - from here forward, are people gonna start murmuring under their breath that I'm a racist?? Are we somehow implying that we've now cancelled any possible use of the word "master"?? Cuz that's a tall order.

This isn't like defending the name of Washington DC's NFL team - a term which has no socially-acceptable use and was coined solely for racist purposes. This is targeting a fairly generic word that, in nearly all cases, has nothing to do with race. I think this is where a lot of the resistance comes from.

You achieve an Associate, then a Bachelor, then a Master. The MC is the Master of Ceremonies. A very senior enlisted person is a Master Chief. When someone demonstrates incredible skill, they've delivered a master class in the subject. A device that converts force into hydraulic pressure is a master cylinder. An eastern spiritualist is a Zen master. The print from which all others are copied is the master print. The list goes on...

But if I have the gall to actually speak any of these terms going forward, am I racist???


I 100% agree with the people you quoted. This kind of naming change will do very little to quell the overwhelming racism in the US. I am also a single person within a community that has its own issues in regards to race and gender. So I am advocating for change in a space I have the ability to make that change.

In regards to the word master in all of it's various contexts...I view the tech industry's usage of it to be problematic simply because of the master/slave terminology. The term master in the tech industry does nothing to describe the technology it's used for. I mean really think about the words master and slave versus something like primary and replica. Master/slave tells me that the master database owns another slave database and forces it to work for them. That isn't what that relationship is so why are we using it? To be quite honest, if master branches existed and there was no usage of master/slave in the industry I would have less of a problem with it. But overall, its incongruous to assume all usages of the word master are inherently racist.


So I am advocating for change in a space I have the ability to make that change.

Excellent point. Advocate for any (and every) change that you can - big or small.

Master/slave tells me that the master database owns another slave database and forces it to work for them. That isn't what that relationship is so why are we using it?

I appreciate the clarification. And yeah, that makes total sense.

Best regards to you!

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