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Discussion on: GitHub to replace racially-loaded terms (master, slave, blacklist and whitelist)

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Raphael Habereder • Edited on

Do you think it's a coincidence that everything black in the English language connotes something negative (black magic, blackmail, blacklist) while everything white has a positive connotation (whitelist, whitewash, 'great white shark')?

To be honest, reading these words, mostly they actually spark the opposite effect for me, since I am more biased towards black being "exciting, more appealing to look at", so I am not sure how qualified I am to answer your question.

But I'll humour your very good question and will try to also insert my point, that I do think that personal perspective plays a huge roll, as I will demonstrate with your examples.

  • Black Magic is kind of cool (I'm more the destructive guy, which I know, is a bad example in this context), while White Magic (Healing) is boring to me. (I also don't know why this paragraph is completely bold)
  • Blackmail, very bad, that one I agree, undeniably. Though I don't know if there is "whitemail" of any kind that would be "good" in comparison. (Apparently, yes there is "whitemail", and it's supposed to be good. Never heard of that tbh)

  • Blacklist, this one, is different to me. I rather blacklist "bad.domain" than whitelist 1000s of domains I think are "good". Blacklisting is much less effort and in my opinion more helpful. Though the movement toward accept/blocklist is perfectly reasonable in that case. That would get a thumbsup emoji from me, if I knew how to type it on a keyboard :D

Whitelist, Whitewash, great white:
Whitelisting, as I mentioned before, I hate it. SO much work. Please let me blacklist instead, I beg you. Whitewashing? Bad shit, especially in movies.
Great whites? Scary as all hell, they are monsters.

Though, and that is where I am wary, I might be heavily biased toward the color black being good, because I find black, as a color, way more appealing than white.

Or could it be that those in authority in the past made a conscious effort to make it that way?

To be honest, I can't say no to that. Etymology is a complex and very interesting topic and most words that are bound to a color, have the basic color somewhere in their history. So I would like to reserve that judgement to the specialists in this case.

Maybe it's just my naivety to hope "humanity is mostly good" when creating words.

Those with the authority now should use it so I think it's the right thing to do!

I agree to a point. If it's something that actually hurts people, that would undeniably bring a positive change to the world, then by all means. Bring down the hammer of justice and bring it down hard.

But I don't see the positive it is going to bring the world to rename a default branch in a code management tool. Especially not, if there are so many more obvious things with much more impact we could do with this newly sparked drive instead (for example to bring down the hammer on the police, which I know, is a US-Centric problem right now and not a global thing).

I just think it's a huge uproar over a small thing, when this drive could bring so much more change somewhere else.