Stop Using Racial & Prejudicial Technology Terms

2021.02.08

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There are terms in our industry that have become accepted vernacular, but they actually perpetuate prejudiced views and racial inequality. This is a call to review such practices, language and systems, and immediately enact plans to amend them.

The very nature of prejudice and racial bias has been built into the foundations of many of the tools we use, ideas we communicate, and general everyday life. While not limited to racial bias, the technology industry has been using terms regularly. That  pervasiveness has made us tone-deaf and blind to their use.

Terms for Immediate Replacement: 

  1. TERMS: “Whitelist,” “Blacklist” 
    • ISSUE: These terms perpetuate segregation of access and rights based on allowing white and denying black. These ideas are coined from prejudice based on the color of a person’s skin. 
    • PURPOSE: Signifies a gatekeeping process as to whether or not something should be allowed or denied access or rights based on inclusion in a certain group or by certain contextual identifiers. 
    • MITIGATION: Change use of “Whitelist” to “Allowlist” and “Blacklist” to “Denylist”
  2. TERMS: “Master,” “Slave” 
    • ISSUE: These terms directly perpetuate slavery and the idea of ownership of one person by another. 
    • PURPOSE: Identify when one system depends upon or reports directly to a system before. The predecessor system normally has higher means and capabilities. 
    • MITIGATION: Change use of “Master” to “Primary” and “Slave” to “Subsidiary”

While we know technology moves quickly, the engine to change establishment runs slow. However, even though recognizing immediate mitigation may be difficult, we implore your organization to start planning the replacement of these terms as soon as possible. 

What we are doing: 

  1. Calling out systemic racism and prejudice when we witness it and participating in a solution 
  2. Provide templates and examples like this document to support change 
  3. Sending this letter to the creators of our technology stack 
  4. Adding these terms and other prejudicial language to our vendor review & selection processes 
  5. Internal audit of IT services and systems for these terms 
  6. Change the name of our code repository consolidation branch from “master” to “main” 

Technologists are the stewards of the future, and it is our responsibility to speak up when witnessing injustices, as well as participate in the actions to correct them.

Supplementary reading: 

Note: As part of the DEI team at Eileen Fisher, we are submitting a similar letter to all of our technology partners with the same Call To Action!

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