Removing harmful language from my lexicon

The recent Black Lives Matter movement being thrust into the foreground by the death of George Floyd has caused me to reflect on my thoughts & behaviours around race.

How can I use my privilege as a white middle-aged man to squash racism.

Something within my gift to change is my language. Words matter as words are powerful.

Changing my language is part of a bigger plan to more actively call out racism & sexism where I see it.

This post is about how I am changing my language to be less harmful, not only to race, but also sex & patriarchy.

I’ll admit from the outset, this is a tiny, tiny step & I am keen to do more – I’ve been a passenger on my journey so far. Now I am the driver.

I always try to the words specific for the context & this is a change I have been making quietly for a number of years.

So why am I writing this post now?

I want to accelerate the changing of my language. This post makes me accountable. Hopefully, others will benefit from the list

Mixed opinions on changing terms

There are many opinions around changing our words to be less harmful. These include (largely from the Twitter threads referenced below):

  • Words have the power we give them, change your relationship with the word
  • Changing the words doesn’t necessarily change the bias
  • What’s the point in changing words? If you want change, you need to get out there & vote / march / protest

I agree with all these. I’m focusing on what I can do now to make a change.

Obviously, there are also people who disagree with the idea of changing words altogether.

I don’t completely understand their position (largely because their argument is constrained within Twitter), but as I see it, regardless of race or sex, the amended terms actually more helpful & are less ambiguous.

Helpful terms

Here’s my list of terms I’ve collected from various sources (most of which are contained in the references below)

Harmful Helpful
Blacklist Block list
Deny list
Exclusion list
Exclude list
Whitelist Allow list
Safe list
Permit list
Inclusion list
Blackhat (hacker) Unethical
Whitehat (hacker) Ethical
Master Primary
Conductor (orchestra)
Slave Secondary
Musician (orchestra)
Grandfather Legacy
Whitespace Emptyspace
Master branch Trunk
Main branch

Hungry for more

Do you have any helpful terms I haven’t included here?

Are any of these new to you?

What are your thoughts on changing your language?

References on changing terms

Adelin Cai Twitter Thread

Leah Culver Twitter Thread

‘Master/Slave’ Terminology Was Removed from Python Programming Language

UK NCSC to stop using ‘whitelist’ and ‘blacklist’ due to racial stereotyping

Monzo Tone of Voice

“Blacklists” and “whitelists”: a salutary warning concerning the prevalence of racist language in discussions of predatory publishing


References on understanding race

10 Books About Race To Read Instead Of Asking A Person Of Color To Explain Things To You

Introduction to Being an Antiracist (including the Seeing White podcasts )


The post Removing harmful language from my lexicon appeared first on Duncan Nisbet – Software Delivery Consultant.

Source: ministry of testing
Removing harmful language from my lexicon

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