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GitHub, fuck your name change (mooseyanon.medium.com)
3353 points by leontrolski 34 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 2007 comments



I want to share my own reactions to the name change since this is a really interesting topic. For context, I'm an African American, so many of my ancestors were slaves.

  - The first time it occurred to me that "master" in this context could offend anyone was when GitHub changed the name (and broke my workflow).
  - My immediate reaction was, "this change is by white people for white people," where "white" means anyone who isn't black.
  - My next reaction was, "they may be changing the name for the wrong reasons, but the change is brilliant."
Let me explain a little more. Whether motivated purely by virtue signaling or by more genuine intentions, changing the name doesn't fix any of the problems that black people face. The article explains this well.

What's powerful about this name change is that it pushes us to alter a habit, in my case one embedded deeply in my fingers, something that I do every day without realizing that I'm doing it. Thus it is a useful reminder of the implicit bias that contributes to the lack of diversity in tech. Never mind that the old name was harmless, the change brings repeated awareness to an important topic, and it reaches a the developer community in a targeted way.

So, next time you are annoyed that you have to fix a script or you accidentally type master when you needed to type main, please just take a deep breath, change the name, and remember to reflect upon whether you have are subconscious habits or biases that work against diversity in tech.


As another black SWE, I'll add that I disagree with your perspective. I think the name change does more harm than good because it trivializes the movement. If the goal is to change minds and open hearts then where appropriate, we should endeavor to communicate in ways that will be well received by those who need to hear the message. Stuff like this is just preaching to the choir and alienating the rest, but also not actually changing anything that matters in the lives of black people.


>I think the name change does more harm than good because it trivializes the movement.

>If the goal is to change minds and open hearts then where appropriate, we should endeavor to communicate in ways that will be well received by those who need to hear the message. Stuff like this is just preaching to the choir and alienating the rest.

> Also not actually changing anything that matters in the lives of black people.

I couldn't have put this better myself. There are two issues

- What people want is justice, including economic justice, and progress. They want to stop being discriminated by gerrymandering politicians and trigger-happy cops. They want an economy that serves everyone and not just those on the very top, and that does not disproportionally discriminate those on the bottom and especially minority communities with a history of disadvantage. In this sense, changing master to main is nothing but a feel-good measure for privileged white people to feel good about themselves without actually having to put in any effort into tackling hard problems like improving democracy or improving the economic system.

- Besides this, it's actually a stupid move in a political, pragmatic sense. Like you're saying, it alienates precisely those you need to bring to your side ("it's pc gone mad!") and it's only going to be well received by those already pre-disposed to agree with you. It's actually my main criticism of the Left nowadays: we are shit at politics! You have to be pragmatic and somewhat calculating to actually get shit done. Many activists on the left today rather childishly think that simply being right is enough, as if you didn't have to be smart, convincing, use rhetoric, etc.


I think you overstate the level of lasting alienation and understate the cumulative impact that a bunch of small "trivial" changes could have over years.

For a hundred years after the Civil War, and then a solid 50 more after the Civil Rights movement, we had "white people doing nothing" plus "some still-racist white people actively trying to roll things back." Doing things, and keeping the issue in the forefront, even if the things sometime look silly to some people, is going to make us more progress than going back to doing nothing because some people think only the perfect things are worth doing.

(People getting affronted, offended, and alienated by actions that they think are "silly" is another problem entirely... You don't think it'll make a big difference? That's nice. Why are you making a big deal out of it, then? There's a virtue signalling of "look at how more evolved I am to not be fooled by your silly change, and still spot that the world still sucks after it!!")


As much as we pretend otherwise, people's attention and resources are limited. Time spent bikeshedding these inconsequential things is time not spent tackling more important issues. Each newsflash that opens with "pc culture gone mad! the word "blacklist" is being banned by radical leftists" is a newsflash that doesn't open with

"wages have been stagnant for the past 50 years despite gains in productivity"

"prices of tvs and smartphones falling, prices of housing and healthcare skyrocketing"

"statistical studies show voter preferences have near-zero correlation with effected legislation, while preferences of the wealthier 0.5% are very strongly correlated"

etc.

In short: you're alienating people that you could bring to your side, you're wasting time and effort in inconsequential changes, you're giving fuel to those who use these trivialities to distract the populace from the real issues. I see no upside here.


As a Native American this comes across to me the same as how the savior complex drives people to talk down to Native Americans about their persecution.

And that's pretty much what the OP article is complaining about, people with savior complexes doing performative things that don't really fix the problem on a larger scale.


If I may ask, (why) do you prefer Native American over Indian (assuming you're talking about being a United States native and not a native of other parts of America, ie. South America)?


I have no preference, so sometimes I will say Native American, sometimes its American Indian, sometimes its indigenous... No real preference other than I tend to use one or another based on context at times. Its more clear and not mildly politically loaded to say "Native American" in this context.

I do not really like using Indian to refer to Native Americans as I work with a lot of people from India. This is a personal preference, I don't correct people who say Indian to refer to Native Americans and I will often use it in a conversation where its already being used to avoid confusion or bad vibes.

An of course, there is the confusion you noted that can happen between the super-continent America and the country commonly called America.


Do USA schools teach that America is one continent divided in north, central and south America? Or is it America=USA ? I'm from South America and we learn it's one continent


There are multiple, separate issues in the question.

As a matter of actual geological fact, North America and South America are separate continents (they have their own cratonic cores). Geographically they are considered distinct in the USA also. Central America is a cultural or political region refering to the isthmus -- it is not a continent in any sense.

Nationals of the USA are called "Americans" by USA nationals, and by people from other parts of the world, including Japan, Russia, etc (in their own phonologies). Canadians refer to USA nationals as Americans, and do not call themselves Americans.

Europeans frequently object to USA nationals calling themselves Americans, claiming that the word should refer people's of both North America and South America. People from South American nations seem to feel the same. Mexicans seem to me much more likely to refer to a USA national as "Americano" than they are "Estadounidense."

USA nationals will sometimes describe people from North and South American nations as be from "the Americas."


> Europeans frequently object to USA nationals calling themselves Americans

Many Europeans object to calling themselves Europeans.

Ex: From my travels and conversations - the English don't refer to themselves as Europeans. I asked them what continent they lived on. Doesn't matter.


In my experience, a lot of people from the United States tend to conflate "America" and the "United States of America". It's a pet peeve of mine, so I sometimes correct them. But usually people just get annoyed with me. ;-)


People from the USA often use "the Americas" in place of the sense of "America" that refers to both North America and South America.


This blows my mind, because it never occurred to me that this would actually be taught differently. But yes, afaik, in NA we're taught that North and South America are two separate continents. In Canada however, Americans are from the USA, but we don't generally refer to the USA as America. Only they do that. We refer to the middle nation in NA as The U.S.

It's hard to recall what I was taught about Central America, but I believe it was that it's sort of a region shared between both and only a colloquially separate entity.


So you learned "there are six continents"? That's really interesting. Growing up in the US, we always learned it as seven. I never really thought about that as something that was taught differently based on location.

(Unfortunately though, I think that ignorance is fairly common for a lot of aspects of life for people raised in the US.)

Side note: I was going to say "aspects of life for Americans", but realized Americans means more than just those in the US. So I propose a new term for "people from the US". USers. :)


At least from my experience, America is the US. If you want to refer to the giant landmass that makes up the majority of the land in the western hemisphere, you say "The Americas".


> you're wasting time and effort in inconsequential changes, you're giving fuel to those who use these trivialities to distract the populace from the real issues.

That's probably a valid perspective, but I see a lot of well-meaning comments like this, and this thread now has more comments on it, than github has employees. Perhaps the time "wasted" on this at github isn't as high as the time wasted discussing it.

As a software engineer, my workflow is forced to change all the time. As a software engineer, I don't complain. I've been praised for not complaining. I will work on Visual Basic code if you want me to.

Similarly, I'll change how I speak and work if it makes someone more comfortable, no problem.

I'm also desperate for there to be more conversations about unionizing, corporate lobbying, the outsized influence of the 1%.

Maybe if we both just shut up about this topic and get on with our other work, the world will be a better place?


> Similarly, I'll change how I speak and work if it makes someone more comfortable, no problem.

But does it? Is there a clamour of people demanding immediate change due to the grievous usage of... a technical word?


With regards to "main" vs "master" I honestly don't care. It might make some people feel better, and it might not. Should I care, and comment here about it?

Why?


So let it happen quickly without complaining about it so that tomorrow we can be arguing about something else, instead of arguing about the same thing for ten straight years.

"People get pissed off even by small changes" is a MUCH bigger impediment towards real progress than "people are making small changes that won't fix the whole world" is.

I don't believe most of the people who say they're only problem is that the change is "too small." I think that's just an excuse of convenience to resist any change or challenge to the status quo. If your problem is that the change isn't big enough, the solution is to push for bigger ones yourself! But that's not usually what we see those people doing...


It's not the size of the change that's a problem, it's that the change doesn't address the problem at all, and that the only metric for success for these changes is how angry they make people (which, in the circles of the people proposing these changes, means the change is "working").

It's entirely possible to hire more engineers of color and pay them fairly, but it turns out that pitting workers against each other by introducing a handful of inconsequential process and standards changes is much cheaper and hinders the solidarity that enables coordinated advocacy for better working conditions.


The problem with that is we never graduate to the real problems.

People who are after a quick, delusional dopamine hit from changing harmless terminology will just go after sillier and sillier stuff instead.

It's not "too small", it's irrelevant and selfish.


Each newsflash could cover those things anyway, but they choose garbage wedge issues and will continue to foment them when they cant find any: biden's dog was a recent controversy because talking about systemic problems doesn't get clicks and doesn't make people upset in the same way this type of BS does.


they choose garbage wedge issues and will continue to foment them when they cant find any: biden's dog was a recent controversy

I can't believe anyone really believes that story


Brilliant. (Truly!)


Pull on every thread. This is one thread, there is no opportunity cost of this sort of thing.

We all need to get over ourselves


> Why are you making a big deal out of it, then?

Achieves nothing; breaks build scripts; imposed by faceless outsiders who have no interaction with the project.


I'd argue it doesn't just achieve nothing, it works against the cause in two ways:

* First, as others have said, it builds resentment in those that see it as not worthwhile compared to other things and who are negatively impacted like how you describe.

* Second, which I haven't really seen people bring up, by succeeding at a visible but inconsequential change, the activists who brought this about are less likely to bother with something that actually matters.


> I think you overstate the level of lasting alienation and understate the cumulative impact that a bunch of small "trivial" changes could have over years.

Not even close. Everyone I've talked to about it makes some mention about the left having lost its mind, myself included.


>I think you overstate the level of lasting alienation and understate the cumulative impact that a bunch of small "trivial" changes could have over years.

I'm a very liberal person, and have actively fought prejudice, especially the type of unconscious bias that is so difficult to stomp out, my entire professional career. I'm especially keen on the dynamics of power in conversation, it's crazy how often people from a less privilege group get interrupted, and people rarely realize the dynamic as its occurring.

But all of the PC policing and the with-us-or-against-us rhetoric has really soured me on giving a shit about any of this. While I'm privileged by being white, I was born to a lower-middle class family in a rural area and don't feel particularly privileged. I went to a backwards high school where I was bullied for being a nerd, with curriculum from 60's( graduated in ~2010 and we didn't have a single CS class, and highest achievable GPA was 4.2, while people in neighboring districts could go to the GATE high school and graduated with a 5.0). I had undiagnosed/treated mental health problems which were significantly exacerbated by my family's inability to afford healthcare (we had insurance, but couldn't afford to actually see the doctor). Despite this we were too wealthy to qualify for any student aid and I was unable to win any substantial scholarships. I was mature enough at 20 to know I wasn't doing well enough nor did I have adequate direction in school to take tens of thousands in what I understood at the time to be an undischargeable debt on the gamble that it would pay off. I remember looking for help about how to do better at the community college I was attending and basically determined that I, as a straight white atheist, didn't really have allies as when I asked people where they got e.g. counseling, it was always through a channel i didn't have access to, whether it was a church group, a family friend or some support group for people who weren't me. My parents are both 40 years my senior and were so far out of the loop that they didn't even know that GPAs went higher than 4. I also didn't know that if I saw a psychiatrist I could turn everything around, and had no access to one, so I dropped out.

>Why are you making a big deal out of it, then?

Because I, personally, find all this woke shit about race and sex from bougie whites offensive, classist, and racist. I completely support it when it is coming from the (dis)affected community in question, but when there is a dogpile of privileged people virtue signaling in a way that completely negates the actual issues (like people not having equitable access to justice, healthcare, education and housing) I find affront. I would argue most of the problems that minority communities face are also shared by poor white communities, the only difference is that those communities have virtually no actual voice in modern discourse and have privileged whites talking on their behalf instead. Admittedly a common problem generally, but I don't want people with power, and make no mistake bougie tech workers have a lot more power than the poor do, to feel they've "done something" and pat themselves on the back until they actually make poor people's lives better, changing master/slave to main/source, or whatever the fuck language change you choose is literally doing nothing to make things better for anyone but github/micorsoft. It's paying lip service, full stop.

I also find some of talk about the historic enslavement of Blacks in the US kinda weird. I can track my lineage back thru 100s of years of serfdom, my ancestors literally fleeing Europe to America during Reconstruction in 19th century to escape brutal peonage and serfdom.. and nobody cares. I'm of the "priviledged class" because people who I have no relation to but shared my skin color were of the ruling class 250 years ago when we didn't respect human rights. Sounds racist as hell to me, all things considered. I just don't get it.


I agree with much of what you've said, especially the part about the shared problems that poor minority and poor White people face. Based on what you've said I wouldn't say you were very "privileged."

But responding to one of your points, and I don't think this is taught very well in schools, the specific discrimination that Black people faced went on for a long time after the end of slavery. For example, here in what is now considered progressive Oakland, CA, Black people were kept out of many jobs through the 1940s and 50s, including as streetcar drivers. Also, they were excluded from government subsidized mortgages through the 60s, which impeded their ability to build wealth and live in good conditions. These examples of explicit racial discrimination happened well within living memory.


Oh I understand that completely, which is why I state that I do have privilege as a white person. but the left has a messaging problem wherein too many of the bougie whites narcissisticaly believe all of their privileges are shared amongst whites.

Even apart from your examples, (you missed Japanese interment camps/stolen wealth, probably the worst thing the US did domestically in the 20th century) racial profiling is still extremely real in this country. Which is on everyone radar, but it's really put into focus the times I've traveled cross country and consistently see POC on the side of the interstate.

>These examples of explicit racial discrimination happened well within living memory.

I mean, the way I see it, explicit financial discrimination is still happening today. Its just called affirmative action.


> I mean, the way I see it, explicit financial discrimination is still happening today. Its just called affirmative action.

Nope. Redlining, the entire history of USDA subsidies in the 20th century, the GI bill etc are far more economically impacting than any meager adjustments to the dominance of white people in business and government. White people need to STFU about affirmative action as it has not meaningfully changed the shape of leadership in our workforce.


That was then, and this is now. To call the descendants of people who went through that period either "privileged" or "marginalized" is no different than visiting the sins of the father upon the son. It's morally reprehensible.


"Privileged" and "marginalized" are not moral judgments.


In woke cultures view of the world, they most certainly are.


The disparities in access to COVID vaccinations as of the time I’m writing this should tell you that this is still happening.


Thank you for taking the time to write this and for thinking the way you do. The most common trait among successful (not necessarily wealthy) people in my opinion transcends race, creed, religion, or sex; it's persistence.


>Besides this, it's actually a stupid move in a political, pragmatic sense. Like you're saying, it alienates precisely those you need to bring to your side ("it's pc gone mad!")

Alienates at best, emboldening the racists at worst. Clearly even the author was pissed by this change, not just because it's an empty gesture but also a change to workflow. I'm imagining some f̶a̶s̶h̶y̶ ̶e̶d̶g̶e̶l̶o̶r̶d̶ "Western Chauvinist" programmer throwing a fit every time they accidentally git checkout master, racism intensifies.


> "It's actually my main criticism of the Left nowadays: we are shit at politics!"

a good point in the making until this line, where you aligned yourself with a shallow identity. fuck left and right. stop trying to find a team to mindlessly root for. yes, it's hard, and yes, it means more mindshare devoted to evaluating what you think rather than who you want others to think you are in subservience to ideological hegemony. politics is shit because not enough of us do this, but rather settle on a tribe and leave our brains behind in the process.

the left isn't right, it's a coalition for power, which is for delivering advantage to some people at the exclusion of others. power doesn't value or uphold right and wrong, so you're premise is profoundly misguided here.


You're assuming too many things about me. "Left" is a term with centuries of history. I use it because it accurately describes my positions, and the traditions and schools of thought that most influenced my views.


Suppose that 80% of the population support something that me and my friends don't like. If we can divide this group into two, by finding things that they strongly disagree over, then we can guarantee that this 80% never gets to express its majority.

So if we can put 50% of these people in a group called "Left" and 50% of these people in a group called "Right", and then prevent direct democracy with something such as elected representatives, then neither the Left nor the Right ever has to vote on the issue, because instead they are fighting over the most important thing, e.g. abortion. When the Left are in power, they are focused on the things that the Right is trying to take away, and vice versa. There is an eternal struggle. As a result, the things that a majority agrees on never get voted on, and even if they did, whoever is not in power would vote against them.

This is not hypothetical. There are several major issues that have the support of the majority (sometimes as much as 80%) of the population, and yet they are never voted on.

Left and Right is a trap.


Noam Chomsky has a good quote about this.

"Now that … workers are superfluous, what do you do with them? First of all, you have to make sure they don’t notice that society is unfair and try to change that, and the best way to distract them is to get them to hate and fear one another."

The "us vs them"ing that's been happening here for the past several decades is more than concerning, it's shocking. The number of times per year that a Congressperson will side with the opposite party during a vote has been shrinking like a cannonball for decades, and it's so limited now it almost doesn't exist. In the 60s, this wasn't the case; voting with the opposite side on certain things was fairly common. There is no way that is not directed and intentional.

And the issues we are getting wrapped up in emotionally are either 1) focused on fear or 2) 'religious' issues for which we will almost never have common agreement, but which are not of actual vital importance at a national level.


But I'm not arguing to "divide" or anything ffs, I simply used the word to describe a broad range of political positions, whose people which defend them I think are often making those two mistakes.


This is what happens when “left” and “right” are two massive blocks. Your point is a very good demonstration of why a two-parties system is not much better than a single-party one.

There is an optimum in the middle. Governments lasting for a day like several European countries have had in the past is also harmful and alienating. But if there is nothing forcing people to compromise and collaborate, what you describe is the expected outcome: frequent swings from one side to the other, each time with a slim majority, and nothing good happening over the long term.

The problem is not left and right. The problem is that you cannot represent a full spectrum of ideologies with a binary choice.


> This is not hypothetical. There are several major issues that have the support of the majority (sometimes as much as 80%) of the population, and yet they are never voted on.

maybe there just isn't really much democracy in the united states.


“ In fact, the Data for Progress poll found H.R. 1—also known as the For the People Act—has broad public support. More than two-thirds of likely voters (68 percent) said they would back the proposal. Just 16 percent said they opposed it.

The support also transcended party lines, with 70 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independent or third-party voters and 57 percent of Republican voters expressing approval for the bill.”

Except all the left voted for it and all the right voted against it. You confuse and underestimate the impact of a minority party’s ability to maintain control via gerrymandering, wealthy election finding, voter suppression and an undemocratic Senate.

Show us the litany major issues 80% of citizens support that the left kneecaps.

Both sides do it is a trap.

https://www.newsweek.com/gop-opposes-hr-1-poll-finds-majorit...


You won't escape 90% of the party lines non-sense until you force bill discipline and kill riders. Until such time as representatives can vote on one issue withou getting blown out stackwise by having to wadethrough 6 distinct pieces of legislation all rolled into one, there will be defensive obstruction along party lines.

GP's point is also working as designed. The Founders envisioned a country with a minimum of lawmaking. The system was intended to only respond to a fairly unambiguous signal, and warned of the dangers of a Government that squandered it's credibility on laws it couldn't enforce, or frequent flip-floppery. It's just sad no one seems to have listened.


> There are several major issues that have the support of the majority (sometimes as much as 80%) of the population, and yet they are never voted on.

Can you provide examples?


Not GP, but affordable health insurance with pre-existing conditions maybe?


If left is a term that “goes back centuries”, then I don’t know what it means anymore. In the 18th century it was the group that sat on the other side of the room from the royalists.


Read a little deeper into that history, things haven't changed all that much. I can offer a Quora answer I wrote some time ago as a jumping off point: https://www.quora.com/How-did-America-become-a-country-of-tw...

Leftism is, generally speaking, those who want to move the needle especially rapidly towards "power to the people". Those on the right generally want to keep power with the established power base.

This can be contrasted with liberalism, which is the belief in a core platform of liberty, consent of the governed, and equality before the law. Though liberalism is often conflated with leftism, it's not, and neither is it the opposite of conservatism.

Many Americans today have forgotten what these terms mean, but that doesn't mean they're meaningless. They still are relevant, people just aren't really understanding the political philosophy.


> Leftism is, generally speaking, those who want to move the needle especially rapidly towards "power to the people". Those on the right generally want to keep power with the established power base.

This is the opposite of the positions taken by those described as "left" and "right" in the US. Republicans are individualist, "power to the people", "states' rights", etc, but would never be described as "left", while it's the Democrats that tend towards centralizing power in the federal government.

> Many Americans today have forgotten what these terms mean, but that doesn't mean they're meaningless.

They are certainly approaching that point if people don't mean remotely the same thing when using them.


The left-wing perspective on "power to the people" often means the use of state power on behalf of people to counteract private sources of power (eg commercial power).

The right-wing perspective often means the removal of state power in favor of private (ie, "personal") source of power (often in the form of commercial entities).


> This is the opposite of the positions taken by those described as "left" and "right" in the US. Republicans are individualist, "power to the people", "states' rights", etc, but would never be described as "left", while it's the Democrats that tend towards centralizing power in the federal government.

I wouldn't describe these aspects of Republican messaging as their core platform. They're just conservative standards, all conservatives tend to imagine themselves this way. Rugged individualists, callbacks to tradition, even "states rights", aren't particularly leftist in that they aren't calling for moving power anywhere, but rather keeping it where it is. You vote for Republicans if you like their messaging, it just so happens that how Republicans want to achieve these goals means the old white people are empowered to do things the old white way.

If you pierce through the dreck of the messaging, the platform's the same as any other conservative ideology. Law and order, another pillar of conservative rationale, is the name of an actual political party in Poland, guess what, they're actually the majority party.

There's just not that much special about American politics when you get right down to it. What's dangerous about it is that America has more money than the average European country, but our society is far less well-educated on humanities subjects. If you think that makes us prone to misinformation and propaganda, well, it does.


such concepts are not static across a population, nor through time. beyond the author(s) and early adherents, the population itself has a separate conception of such ideas that can be markedly different from the initial conception, and that also changes through time. it's certainly useful to understand this sort of history, but trying to stake a definition in time and defy the dynamism of these concepts is inherently political (e.g., originalism). sometimes that can be done deftly and sometimes hamfistedly.

in any case, the concepts can be relevant and meaningful and still not be useful as identity markers in any meaningful and relevant way. identification principally with a single school of thought is simply a mistake of rationality, and how we get unthinking tribalist extremism. it happens with any -ism: libertarianism, socialism, nihilism, capitalism, etc. the world works as a non-linear composition of all of these ideas and much more. not a single one can be considered "correct" in any meaningful sense.


They retain meaning across populations and through time. That's the whole point of philosophy. People's opinions on the matters change, but that doesn't change the matters.

Liberalism didn't change because people are using the term incorrectly and don't understand how to use it properly. Like a market, eventually the political landscape returns to rationality. At the end of the day, Trump is a classic fascist, and his supporters are supporting fascism.

They don't get to rewrite the meanings of the words because they don't like the connotations. Many through history have used his playbook, and it all follows the same general arc.


> Liberalism didn't change because people are using the term incorrectly and don't understand how to use it properly.

Well...

Actually it has changed. Classical Liberalism[1] is primarily an economic belief system that advocates small, non-interventionist government. It evolved into Right-libertarianism in the 20th and 21st century.

"In the late 19th century, classical liberalism developed into neo-classical liberalism, which argued for government to be as small as possible to allow the exercise of individual freedom. In its most extreme form, neo-classical liberalism advocated social Darwinism. Right-libertarianism is a modern form of neo-classical liberalism."

This odd positioning is most visible in Australia, where the conservative party is called "The Liberal party" after the mid-20th century view on this.

This is a long way from any modern understanding of Liberalism particularly within the US:

"Social liberalism, also known as left liberalism in Germany, modern liberalism in the United States[4] and new liberalism in the United Kingdom, is a political philosophy and variety of liberalism that endorses a regulated market economy and the expansion of civil and political rights....

In the United States, the term social liberalism may sometimes refer to progressive stances on sociocultural issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage as opposed to social conservatism."[2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_liberalism


Don't you "well actually" me!! :-)

All classical liberals are liberals, but not all liberals are classic liberals. Ditto for social liberals. When I defined liberalism, I outlined a core platform. There are many many many movements within liberalism that all share the same core platform. They have to.

You cannot have classical liberalism in a country that's not committed to the core liberal platform. A free market just doesn't work in a world where there's no equality of the law, no liberty, and no consent of the governed. If even one of these is missing, you really can't have classic liberalism either. A regime will invariably put their fingers on the scales of commerce.

Ditto for every single other political philosophy under the liberal banner. All of these things rest upon a belief in the population of those three bedrock principles.


> All classical liberals are liberals

This goes against any common, modern understanding of the plain unadorned term "liberal". For example, former (Republican) house speaker Paul Ryan has called himself a "classical liberal"[1]

I'd also note:

Core beliefs of classical liberals did not necessarily include democracy nor government by a majority vote by citizens[2]

[1] https://www.badgerinstitute.org/WIInterest/Spring20171/Guest...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism


I'm not sure why you're presenting this as an argument against me. Americans, by and large, are liberals, every last one of them. It's the ones ignorant of political philosophy who have turned it into a pejorative. Paul Ryan calling himself a classical liberal is him calling himself a liberal.

Allow me to restate. Liberalism involves a core belief in consent of the governed, liberty, and equality under the law. Classical liberalism is all of these things. They just believe certain aspects are more important than others.

Some American conservative might decide economic freedom (liberty) is the most important aspect of liberalism. That's fine, that's all well and good, under the banner of liberalism. If you suddenly took away this conservative's consent of the governed, or made someone unequal according to the law, they would object, assuming they're a true liberal, which they are, because these values are steeped into just about every American. Solve problems through the political process, not by subverting it. Very, very core America.

What's dangerous about Trump is he's seducing people away from liberalism and towards royalism. Royals are above the law and get to impose governance on the people regardless of their consent. Not even the British agree that the royal family can govern without the consent of the populace, they had many many civil battles eventually deciding the role of the monarchy. Trumpists imagine these things are true even though they're not. They want a monarchy which is above the rule of law. They decide what is true and nobody can use legal action to decide otherwise.

Liberalism is a core Anglo doctrine, every single citizen of Anglo countries is a liberal, and many Europeans as well. They may campaign on other platforms, but if the core liberal pillars of society are threatened, Americans will revert back to those pillars.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but conservatives were fine with Trump's shenanigans, up to a point. That point is essentially, where Trump started threatening core liberal institutions. Once that started happening, the establishment started backing away. Only once Trump waved his hands again after the insurrection, saying it was all for fun, all a show, "be peaceful", did they start to line up again. Trump understood that he had to thread a needle between his base and core America. He failed, because Americans aren't going to go along with a clear subversion of democracy. He thought they could be convinced to and was wrong. Republicans wanted, and still want, his political vitality, but not his tactics.

Conservatives went along with him until he really threatened to make free and fair elections a thing of the past. I'm not saying that the American right is good people, I'm saying that the core beliefs of liberalism are inherent in all of us. There has long long been a fascination with royalism, like every single other democratic nation, but when push comes to shove, those who have tasted Anglo popular sovereignty will choose to continue popular sovereignty. Royalists will always be the minority.


yah, that's a political (and politicized) assertion. you also don't get to define terms only to your convenience, without consideration for the long arc of history and the breadth of the world's imagination.

> "At the end of the day, Trump is a classic fascist, and his supporters are supporting fascism."

impulsive statements like this reveal the limitations of that kind of rigid thinking. trump isn't a fascist, he's a self-centrist. he's one of the simplest human beings to understand because of this. politicized projections such as yours are overfitted at best, and completely unfitted in most cases, as in this case.


> he's a self-centrist

Those are the very same thing. A fascist does not care about anything other than personal power. All philosophies and ideology are superfluous. Fascists run on the very basic political premise of "you like me, elect me and let me run things because you like me and you'll like what I want to do." That's the core message, anything else is pointless to understanding. That's what fascism is. I'm not misunderstanding Trumpism, I'm giving it the same name everybody else who understands political history and theory gives it.

Everything people like about Trump, are the same things that cause people to put fascists in power. Have a look at this explainer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M6CXhUS-x8

Fascism isn't some long slow slide down to Nazi Germany that Americans seem to think of when they consider the term. The Nazis are the most visible and publicly know version of fascism, but countless others throughout history, in Europe, Latin America, Africa, have managed to subvert the mechanisms of their republics using the tactics of populism to put themselves in power, unaccountable to any sort of checks.


> A fascist does not care about anything other than personal power

This isn't a widely accepted definition of fascism. There are plenty of left-wing dictators who fit this definition and weren't fascists.


Yes, but.

How is liberalism not the opposite of conservatism? Conservatives wish to maintain the status quo, true? Liberals wish to change it....

Liberalism has had a horrendous crash lately, many internal contradictions and fallacies have become clear, but the I still adhere to those principals.


You're thinking of progressivism, not liberalism. The American right has turned "liberalism" into a pejorative despite mostly being liberal themselves. (Trump supporters aren't liberal, hard to be liberal when you support fascism)

The only two terms that are really opposites here are 'left' and 'right', because they literally mean which side of the aisle you're sitting on. It shouldn't surprise anyone that the extremes of both sides are going to line up around who belongs in power, the elites, or in publicly accountable institutions.


It’s been basically “power to the individuals” (one person, one vote, this sort of things), as opposed to “power to the elite” (long live the kings etc) since the beginning. The elite makes do without a king, but the aristocratic class reflex is still there.

This spectrum is limited and one-dimensional, but it still is meaningful. The people who claim it isn’t are usually con men after your vote. “The third way” always turned out to be a scam.


I think you’re overfitting history with your current perspective. It’s so limiting, and mostly a recent phenomenon, to look at the past and politics as just “deciding where the power goes”. Most humans even in the US today don’t care except in how it affects their lives. Peasants likely didn’t care who the king was, or had some deep desire to rule themselves, many were just concerned with crop yields, protecting their family, enjoying life, and so on. Colonists in the US barely cared that they were ruled by a king, at least until they got hit with burdensome taxes.

Politics isn’t about power except secondarily, it’s about determining ones way of life. I don’t think anyone would care if they were ruled by a dictator, as long as that dictator didn’t interfere with how they live their life.

This is important because it seems like you walk away with the idea that conservatives are always about concentrating power and progressives are all about diffusing it. That’s just incorrect. Both have different ways they want to live their life and their policies are a reflection of attempts to change the environment around them to fulfill that vision. If progressive policy didn’t affect conservatives way of life, conservatives wouldn’t care about progressives. The reverse is true.

This framework fits every instance in history and everywhere on Earth for why politics happen: because people want to live their envisioned life.


Left has a long history, yes. But there is so much diversity within the groups that identify as leftist. And some people you might call leftist (like the folks at raddle.me) reject the term wholeheartedly. They are committed to thorough antiracism, but do not want to be associated with communist or socialist regimes or ideologies.


Absolutely. I probably have more in common with some people who call themselves "right-wing" that certain people who call themselves "left-wing".


> '"Left" is a term with centuries of history...'

so has "slavery" but that doesn't make it right.

'left' (and 'right') is a term to subvert thinking in ways that advantage the already powerful, and short-circuit the formation of coalitions that can bring about real prosperity and equity to more people.


No one is arguing about right/wrong, he is simply saying the term has an accepted definition (especially in historical context, zooming out past the modern US political media landscape)


the issue is that once you stake your identity on a singular position, you've lost objectivity. that's when it becomes political, not personal.

further, as argued elsewhere, there is no singular correct ("accepted") definition of "left" that isn't a political insistence rather than objective and unyielding fact.

if you believe in "power to the people" or "equal rights" then state that explicitly. don't hide under the highly amorphous tent of "left", which invariably can be contrived into any extant principles that suits the propounder in the moment. spell out what you mean, not your professed identity and (wrongly) assume everyone shares a singular definition of that identity.


if you align yourself with nobody good luck being the single person changing the world. i guess it could happen


coalitions can form without being braindead. it's about being cognizant of the mechanisms of control that are impinging on us and resisting those so we can have meaningful dialog on issues that matter, not this bullshit.


The world is only changed by individual people. Alliances, parties, movements, schools of thought, etc., are just mobs who have adopted the ideas of particular individuals.


Single men do nothing. They still need others to do the hard work. The people who were truly successful did so by managing large organisations. Also, blind luck and circumstances.


Single men perpetrate every single act of injustice under the sun. It’s a single person who discriminates in interviews, discriminates, or Beat someone because of their skin color.


They also make every act of kindness, justice, and compassion, so I am not sure what point you are making. We were writing about single-handedly changing history.


Tolstoy:

In their present condition men are like bees which have just swarmed and are hanging down a limb in a cluster. The position of the bees on the limb is temporary, and must inevitably be changed. They must rise and find a new home for themselves. Every one of the bees knows that and wishes to change its position and that of the others, but not one is able to do so before the others are going to do so. They cannot rise all at once, because one hangs down from the other, keeping it from separating itself from the swarm, and so all continue to hang. It would seem that the bees could not get out of this state, just as it seems to worldly men who are entangled in the snare of the social world-conception. But there would be no way out for the bees, if each of the bees were not separately a living being, endowed with wings. So there would also be no way out for men, if each of them were not a separate living being, endowed with the ability of acquiring the Christian concept of life.

If every bee which can fly did not fly, the rest, too, would not move, and the swarm would never change its position. And as one bee need but open its wings, rise up, and fly away, and after it a second, third, tenth, hundredth, in order that the immovable cluster may become a freely flying swarm of bees, so one man need but understand life as Christianity teaches him to understand it, and begin to live accordingly, and a second, third, hundredth, to do so after him, in order that the magic circle of the social life, from which there seemed to be no way out, be destroyed.

But people think that the liberation of all men in this manner is too slow, and that it is necessary to find and use another such a means, so as to free all at once; something like what the bees would do, if, wishing to rise and fly away, they should find that it was too long for them to wait for the whole swarm to rise one after another, and should try to find a way where every individual bee would not have to unfold its wings and fly away, but the whole swarm could fly at once wherever it wanted. But that is impossible: so long as the first, second, third, hundredth bee does not unfold its wings and fly, the swarm, too, will not fly away or find the new life. So long as every individual man does not make the Christian life-conception his own, and does not live in accordance with it, the contradiction of the human life will not be solved and the new form of life will not be established.

My note: Tolstoy's Christian concept of life is quite different from what most people think of Christianity. He places emphasis on Jesus' teaching of non-resistance to evil by force and was against organized religion.


> The world is only changed by individual people

At least that's the narrative. People like to rally around a single person pushing a single idea, it's a powerful image of a heroic figure who had nothing but a vision.

Almost always, these "single" people are individuals with considerable clout and influence before they become figureheads. They usually rely on armies of subordinates and lots of other resources to do the actual work.


You pretty much hit on a sore point I have.

Issues up for discussion require rational thinking, discovery of facts, forming a "until new info arises" judgement and then you go with that for now.

Left? Right? These are for hands, car indicators, molecule orientation and other two faceted scenarios.

Complex social topics - and they are always complex - two orientations are not nearly enough to consider the full range of possibilities.

Edit: bit more concise.


There was a study done that asked people on the left and right to try to imagine what the views and feeling of the other side were. People on the right were able to do a reasonable job of identifying the positions of the left. People on the left were almost completely unable to identify the goals and values of those on the right. I think that’s a big part of the problem. The left doesn’t understand what the right wants and until they do, they will not be successful in engaging the other side.


There was a study done that asked people on the right and left to try to imagine what the views and feeling of the other side were. People on the left were able to do a reasonable job of identifying the positions of the right. People on the right were almost completely unable to identify the goals and values of those on the left. I think that’s a big part of the problem. The right doesn’t understand what the left wants and until they do, they will not be successful in engaging the other side.


I agree completely. I fully expect to see an article by an affluent white woman writing from her reclaimed wine cork desk telling me to boycott Nintendo until they change the name of the Master Sword.


A (black) engineer colleague of mine told me about his team's effort to change master to main. The whole initiative was started by a rainbow colored hair (white) PM and since it was what they believed to be a highly visible and easy fix, grew to a team of 5. All non-technical PMs of course.

They ended up producing a "manifesto of inclusive software" where they listed every word they considered offensive and what it should be replaced with and made a very public announcement regarding the change.

The only response to their email was my (black) colleague asking if the branch renaming could be postponed to after a release because he didn't know what it could break in the build and release automation in case "master" is hard-coded somewhere.

This apparently started a lengthy thread between him and the 5 PMs where they explained to him that the reason he wasn't supportive of the change was because of the "systemic and cultural racism" he apparently internalized.


Wow how ironic... in their attempt to stop something that isn't even racist to begin with they actually became racists. It'd be funny if this cult like thinking wasn't infecting our entire country.

Thank God the white people were there to tell the black man how to think and feel about himself. After all they're incapable of self care and rational thought... /s


And they alienated someone who they were supposedly fighting for!


Are they fighting for him? His people? Or to Make themselves look good to piers?


I'd think piers would be to busy contending with water to care much about how anyone looks.


Buoy you really nailed that one


The irony here is two much


in their attempt to stop something that isn't even racist to begin with they actually became racists.

No, they were racists all along. They merely over-played their hands and revealed it. But actually they reveal it in other ways if you care to look: the hair and the pronouns in bio are giveaway clues. They "colonised" our industry and now it's time they got decolonised themselves.


This comment is getting downvoted, but the point it makes is validated by my own experience as a black engineer over about 30 years. My "internalized racism" has been explained to me many times by women who share many (if not all) of the same attributes.

As near as I can tell, their need to explain my condition is triggered by independent thinking on my part.


One of the worst forms of racism is often perpetuated by the coastal elites. I'm not saying it starts with a nefarious intent like other forms, but it's rampant. I've brought it up before to some and it's like a light bulb went off, yet they don't want to believe they're a part of it so they try and rationalize.

It's where they change how they treat someone based on the color of their skin while alleging they're an ally.

They think they need to save or help them because they think they're incapable of doing things like getting ID at the DMV, voting or using the internet. They're the ones that use terms like African American and have never had real talk with some black friends, if they have any at all.

They say they're for equality but they don't treat other races or ethnicities as equals. Maybe it just makes themselves feel good, maybe they have a lot of guilt, maybe they feel like they're part of the solution.

And certainly, some people could use more help than others, but it's dangerous, unhealthy and unfair to start with the assumption that someone is incapable of something or treat them like a victim to feed their own savior complex or agenda.

People who are physically handicapped don't even want people coddling their life. Why do some people assume they need and want their help with everything?


Maybe it just makes themselves feel good, maybe they have a lot of guilt, maybe they feel like they're part of the solution.

White saviour complex, is what it is. They soon turn nasty if they don’t think you’re grateful or deferential enough, same as male feminists do with women. But like I say you can easily spot them.

(Non-white myself btw)


What happened then? Maybe in response, he said "no, I didn't internalize any racism, and here's a list of reasons why that logically isn't racist at all", and they said "Oh, never mind then".

Or maybe not. If accusing people of internalizing systemic racism didn't work, nobody would do it. We have a system where accusing a person of racism is an instant win and cannot be argued with, and as long as it is an instant win, it's going to be used, even against actual black people.


> What happened then? Maybe in response, he said "no, I didn't internalize any racism, and here's a list of reasons why that logically isn't racist at all", and they said "Oh, never mind then".

Shouldn't the black engineer's white colleagues "do their own work" instead of forcing him to do it for them?


> What happened then?

He stopped responding to the thread. Moved the ticket to "Backlog" and didn't assign anyone to it.


This is when he should tell them to stop whitesplaining


We have an "inclusion council" that hands out these diktats. The ban list (not blacklist!) is approaching 100 words


> This apparently started a lengthy thread between him and the 5 PMs where they explained to him that the reason he wasn't supportive of the change was because of the "systemic and cultural racism" he apparently internalized.

If you feel that the master branch is a symptom of systemic and cultural racism then sure, feel free to make your case. I am interested in what you have to say and will do my best to consider what you have to say as best as I can.

But once people start making these kind of arguments it's clear to me I'm dealing with someone in simplex transmit-only mode and not receiving anything I have to say.

I really hate these kind of arguments. It's just gaslighting and handwaving away of whatever people are saying. "Your argument is invalid because you are subconsciously racist". Right, what makes you such an expert on my subconscious, hm? This is where I lose interest in talking to people.

I'm about as liberal as they come, but in the last few years I've mostly lost interest in social justice cause not because I think the cause is bad, because there are too many people involved that are just thoroughly unpleasant to deal with. It's high time the community ejects some of its more toxic elements, which will benefit everyone, but thus far they're mostly protected, defended, and even celebrated because "they're on our team". But that's not how it works. Assholes are assholes, no matter which team they're on.


And without a doubt these people (PMs) proudly call themselves "allies" to the cause. SMH.


This is sad.


This is the most insane thing I have read in quite some time.


A PM working in government (happened to be a white woman) once asked me how I (a black engineer, early 30s) escaped the inner city and became successful. I thought about it and answered, "I decided to stop participating in activities that got the police involved in my life."

She called me a racist.


Are you even from the "inner city"? Trying to figure out how dumb this interaction was haha.

I have a totally opposite experience, I'm white trailer trash that managed to get a math PhD from a fairly high ranking school. People just assume I grew up upper middle class.


You caught that, eh?

I am not from the "inner city", and this conversation was pretty dumb. Most of them are.


think you can get that friend to comment here?


> If the goal is to change minds and open hearts then where appropriate, we should endeavor to communicate in ways that will be well received by those who need to hear the message.

As another black SWE - I have to ask which hearts are we trying to open? Some are far too gone and it would be a waste of time to try to convince them to let go of their bigotry. The very same will feign engagement and argue in bad faith while being energy vampires. Why should I supplicate racists before I have my dignity as a human? Fuck "hearts and minds" - I have no way of definitively knowing those - I'll take changed behavior instead, that's all I truly care about. If I ever have kids, I can't have them live like this.

> we should endeavor to communicate in ways that will be well received by those who need to hear the message

I agree, but you need to consciously consider who these people are - if it's everyone, then the battle is already lost.


>I have to ask which hearts are we trying to open? Some are far too gone and it would be a waste of time to try to convince them to let go of their bigotry

Any that can be opened. The ones that are "too far gone" are moot by definition, so we should keep in mind those who might see things differently if we communicate in a way that reaches them rather than puts up roadblocks.

> The very same will feign engagement and argue in bad faith while being energy vampires

Yes, there are many of these people, but my argument is that actions like this empower bad faith actors.

> Why should I supplicate racists before I have my dignity as a human?

We fundamentally disagree that use of the word "master" in a technical context is racist or a denial of human dignity. Using the word "main" instead of "master" doesn't improve economic, social, or political outcomes for black people, it doesn't do anything except create fodder for the bad faith actors.

> Fuck "hearts and minds"

I think this approach hurts the cause. I don't see how our children grow up in a better world if we abandon all hope of reasoning with our fellow citizens. However, as my comment stated, my advice only make sense if the goal is to change hearts and minds, if you don't care about that then my reasoning does not apply.

> but you need to consciously consider who these people are

As you already pointed out, we can't know who they are, thus I think it is prudent to craft broad messaging in a manner that is suitable for those who can be convinced, not those who are already convinced, or those who cannot ever be convinced. I also want to highlight that my comment includes the caveat "where appropriate", that is to say, we should be strident in the face of discrimination and bigotry, but I don't agree that the status quo for git branch names are an example of such problems.


> Yes, there are many of these people, but my argument is that actions like this empower bad faith actors.

My POV is that bad actors should never be a consideration - they are never going to be helpful whether you "empower" them or not. They should be removed from the equation entirely.

> We fundamentally disagree that use of the word "master" in a technical context is racist or a denial of human dignity.

I never claimed naming a default branch "master" is racist - changing it is petty and performative, and doesn't change anything overall. That said, the people who get outraged over this, claiming "PC culture has gone mad" or "'Wokism' is destroying the world" raise a red flag for me, and I immediately suspect them of being culture warriors. I didn't see the same levels of indignation when the kilobyte and megabyte were redefined from 1024 to 1000, but technically the changes are similar (minor annoyance that might break your code/build, but can be fixed with a search-and-replace).

> I don't see how our children grow up in a better world if we abandon all hope of reasoning with our fellow citizens.

Oh, I think reasoning with our fellow citizens is a wonderful thing, but it should not be a prerequisite for a subset of the citizenry to obtain what ought to be inalienable rights - it shouldn't be a negotiation. At times, well-meaning criticism from moderates/the squishy center - who are not as invested - can slow down the movement: I think MLK's "Letter from Birmingham"[1] addresses this more eloquently than I can. Additionally, other movements who are (or feel) oppressed are not relegated to starting from a point of appealing to fellow-citizens: not the Pro-life, or the Pro-choice, or the Pro-2A contingents do this. Why is there a difference?

1. https://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham....


>Additionally, other movements who are (or feel) oppressed are not relegated to starting from a point of appealing to fellow-citizens: not the Pro-life, or the Pro-choice, or the Pro-2A contingents do this.

You'd actually be surprised. Most Pro-2A folks have given up on any hope for actually having the Supreme Court pick up a case, never mind coming to a positive judgement that makes the regulatory framework less fickle and perilous. Screw up with a gun, have a bad lawyer, and poof, everything becomes a felony. You lose voting rights, and your firearm. (Actually I think felonies are woefully overused as criminal punishments nowadays, period)

You can be turned into a felon in waiting overnight if the ATF deems it so. Few hopes at legislation are realistically attainable (silencers becoming non-NFA because of the hysteria around them, to the benefit of many enthusiast's ears) and other perfectly reasonable legislation everyone wants gets poisoned the minute another rider taking another chunk out of the 2nd Amendment gets attached. Most pro-2A groups have tried to build grass root support through friends and family to dispel the fear and mania around firearm ownership.

There are a lot of subgroups and interests all competing for limited legislative and public awareness resources; everything comes with a poignant attrition cost. Completely pointless changes for change sake like the branch name change are the worst type of wasteful expenditure of human organization. It doesn't get an actual physical result. It doesn't cut prison populations. It doesn't get kids in disadvantaged or resource poor districts a shot at better education or exposure to something new. It just lets someone uncomfortable with the world as they perceive it cathart through (in a tragedy of the common sense) being able to point at something and say, "Look, I did something!" Damned be the consequences or naysayers.


> I didn't see the same levels of indignation when the kilobyte and megabyte were redefined from 1024 to 1000, but technically the changes are similar

The changes are similar but they reasoning behind them isn't.

Personally I'm annoyed about the change to the point of refusing to use Github, as a protest. To me it strikes as being overly politically correct. The whole master/slave and white/blacklist thing is an insane stretch of wokeism. If anything I'll start using more of these "controversial" terms if it actually ticks these kinds of people off.


> My POV is that bad actors should never be a consideration - they are never going to be helpful whether you "empower" them or not. They should be removed from the equation entirely.

We disagree on strategy here. Bad faith actors have the power to damage the movement, and we should not give them opportunities to do so if it can be avoided. I want to be clear that I'm not saying we should diminish the fervor of the fight for social justice to accommodate racists, what I'm saying is that we shouldn't waste political capital on efforts that give us nothing in return; fanfare over git branch names gives us nothing, but gives them a talking point. To clarify even further, I'm not saying changing the name is wrong, I'm saying that elevating such trivialities into the wider conversation of social justice is harmful to the cause.

> I never claimed naming a default branch "master" is racist - changing it is petty, and doesn't change anything overall

So what were you referring to when you asked why we should supplicate racists before earning a chance at human dignity?

> People who get outraged over this claiming "PC gone mad" or "'Wokism' is destroying the world" raise a red flag for me and I immediately suspect them of being a culture warrior.

We are in total agreement here. My point is that an 800lb gorilla like github declaring such trivialities as progress towards social justice offers the culture warriors a brightly painted catalyst for delivery of their propaganda that they wouldn't otherwise have. If github were doing something meaningful then this would be a completely different situation because the positive changes they were enacting would outweigh any bleating of the bad faith actors, but since this isn't something useful, the sum total of the act is to harm the movement.

> Oh, I think reasoning with our fellow citizens is a wonderful thing

Your statement of "fuck hearts and minds" doesn't seem to reflect that belief, but I'm happy to take your word for it.

> it should not be a prerequisite for a subset of the citizenry to get what ought to be inalienable rights

I never made that argument. I was discussing the trivialities which were the topic of this article, not inalienable rights.

> I think MLK's "Letter from Birmingham"[1] addresses this more eloquently than I can.

An excellent read of which I am very familiar, but I hope I've made it clear that on the topic of discussion (git branch names), the inalienable rights of oppressed peoples is not the subjective of my criticism.


> We disagree on strategy here

Oh, absolutely - and that is fine.

Additionally, we're probably having slightly different conversations - you appear specifically focused on only Github's renaming of the default branch, and I on the more general "hearts and mind" argument - I used Github's action and the criticism thereof as a launchpad to a more general problem - perhaps I failed to communicate that clearly.

>> Oh, I think reasoning with our fellow citizens is a wonderful thing

> Your statement of "fuck hearts and minds" doesn't seem to reflect that belief, but I'm happy to take your word for it.

The phrase you quoted better captures my thinking when it's not truncated halfway; the second half of the sentence you elided is the more important half.


> They should be removed from the equation entirely.

Yeah, this always ends well...


Yes, this is a good summary of what these changes do. They allow white people to pat themselves on the back, without actually doing anything material to help break down racism.


I think it also burns a certain amount of political capital and good will. People only have so much "give a fuck" to spare, and if you force them to use it in meaningless ways, it's a waste.


Absolutely, this is another thing I feel strongly about. People have limited energy, attention, resources. Every news segment that opens with

"pc gone mad! radical leftists want to ban the word "blacklist"!"

is a news segment that doesn't open with

"wages have been stagnant for the past 50 years despite gains in productivity"

"prices of tvs and smartphones falling, prices of housing and healthcare skyrocketing"

"statistical studies show voter preferences have near-zero correlation with effected legislation, while preferences of the wealthier 0.5% are very strongly correlated"

"hey have you noticed that the EU is hilariously undemocratic"

etc etc.


If your belief is that in the absence of minor controversy, we'd have better media, I think you're optimistic.

We'll always have controversy and I really doubt that reducing it would improve the level of discourse one iota.

Media that prioritises controversy will do whatever they can to find or foment it rather than discuss the topics you listed.


Generating controversy in support of your cause is generally thought of as building political capital, not spending it. You want to focus energy on what people on your side will agree with, and, crucially, can have a personal impact towards.

You can see this dynamic in Republican posturing in the Biden era. Biden is a much harder topic for Republicans to attack. His Covid relief bill has broad bipartisan support and he's an old white guy just like Republicans like to see in office. So instead of wasting time and effort on trying to attack Biden or Covid relief, they spent the last few weeks attacking cancel culture and Dr. Seuss.

This move is the opposite, it lets those interested in social justice and equality participate in a political action. Any time you can energize your base around something, that's a great boon to your side.

More generally speaking, political battles are fought by people who care, not by people who don't. Actions taken that cause the uncaring to care even less are fine so long as they can get some people to care more.

For no better an illustration of this look to PETA. The only reason we still know who they are is because they've taken this as a holy dictate. We still know who they are because they're fantastically successful at creating absolute zealots.


> I think it also burns a certain amount of political capital and good will. People only have so much "give a fuck" to spare, and if you force them to use it in meaningless ways, it's a waste.

Is that what you think is happening here? People are fighting against this change out of concern that if they support it, they won't be able to care about other, more important things down the line?


Oh it's worse than just pats on the back. It's ACTUAL racism. They think they have the right to tell minorities how to think and feel. They think they know what's best and you can't have them thinking for themselves.

I witnessed a white woman exclaim she was revoking someone's Mexican card the other day because he voted for Trump. Supposedly the Mexican is the racist according to this ideology....


There is a testimony floating around from a black Portland cop, complaining that every time he wanted to talk to a black BLM protestor there was a white protestor trying to prevent the black one from speaking with the police.


Totally agree. Had they made a real change that actually mattered, all this time spent on discussing this rename, could have been put into better use. They created buzz, changed nothing.


I tend to agree with triviality. But I’m white and can’t vocalize that opinion IRL. However I do feel like people of my pigment also do these things as risk mitigation. Eg. Most of the world was caught off guard by the Dr Seuss thing. It seems quite obvious to me the family proactively took the books out of print because the fallout from being targeted by SJW or whoever would be huge. People are out there looking for things to be offended by, brands to attack, etc and if you’re a big company you don’t want to be caught in those crosshairs.

That said, I do recall getting “pat us on the back” vibes from GitHub but just wanted to throw this alternate justification out into the discussion.


> the Dr Seuss thing

Can I just briefly highlight that this wasn't "a thing" per se? This was a company privately deciding to pull some poorly selling publications from active publishing and adding a positive PR spin by calling out some questionable decisions in the art.

This was made into "an issue" by some pretty rabid media outlets rebranding it as government censorship while the decision was entirely privately made. That's a pretty terrible mis-categorization.

These sorts of controversies, from both the right and the left, sell news papers and that's the reason why media latches onto them so aggressively.


It sort of was a thing, but it was never new. Geisel spent decades in discourse with people regarding racism and sexism in his works. He earnestly made many changes over the years, for example changing the look of the Chinese character in Mulberry St. Outside the Dr. Suess books, he even sometimes flipped some of his earlier racist tropes to make progressive, anti-racist statements. But he adamantly refused to make some other changes, such using more gender neutral pronouns beyond the substitutions he already made. This latest round of changes and exclusions were the ones he adamantly refused to make. Much worse, he's now portrayed in the media as being blithely or even stubbornly ignorant of his own prejudices, when nothing could be further from the truth. Whether you agree or disagree with him, he engaged with these issues and admitted to many faults.


I don't disagree - and that's part of the reason (other than generally disliking the act of whitewashing our history) that I'm happy that this take down wasn't activist driven - but it certainly is portrayed in some media outlets as being an attack by the left.

I've seen some of his WW2 propaganda and saw a lot of the contemporary artwork from other artists while I was in school - buck-toothed squinty asians in rice hats abound - and he very rightfully walked that back and acted in a reasonable manner. I don't think this has particularly tarnished his image but I also avoid twitter and facebook zealously so I tend to be outside of most of the outrage bubbles.

I do hope that his image continues to do well since he was ahead of the curve on a number of issues near and dear to my heart.


If you recall, ebay now refuses to let people sell the books. This can't be justified by poor sales.


They jumped on it. Ebay and Amazon jumped on the misinterpretation and that is squarely their mistake.

The Dr Seuss estate wasn't afraid of SJW's randomly cancelling them. And neither was Ebay or Amazon, which were instead signalling support for a society retcon that nobody - not even Dr Seuss' estate - asked for. Those latter companies are staffed by people experiencing the same cognitive dissonance in this comment thread.


For whatever hysterical reason those books are now selling for ridiculous prices.

Media made a big deal out of "canceling" Dr. Seuss and those books weirdly became an icon of free speech for some folks and now we've arrived at a place where secondary markets are being forced to take a stance on the issue.

Books get pulled from publication all the time - books even get pulled from publication for really extremist content (or are refused by publishers in the first place). This is only a circus now because some media outlets stirred it up. It is occasionally the case that some folks on the internet find something offensive and try and get it canceled with a petition - I loathe this process for a number of reasons - but this isn't what happened here, some media outlets took a nothingburger and turned it into a four course meal.

If you hike in the woods you'll pass by bee-hives all the time, that doesn't mean you always go out in heavy clothing - but if someone ahead of you on the trail kicked a hive repeatedly then you'll put on the clothing if you've got it. All the "thing" here is just reactionary to there being so much arbitrary attention directed at it in the first place.


ebay have been randomly censoring stuff for stupid reasons for a while (e.g. they (approximately, details best double checked) won't sell historical records involving slavery much to the annoyance of historians).

I'm minimally troubled by the discontinuation of what I'm fairly sure actually -were- underperforming titles while also extremely pissed with ebay.


> media outlets rebranding it as government censorship

I must have missed that. All the criticism I've seen about the action was just that -- criticism of the private action, basically criticizing the editorial decision.

I haven't seen anyone confuse it with government regulation.


Bunch of republican politicians tried to claim it was "Biden's fault" and Ted Cruz is now selling autographed copies of Green Eggs and Ham ... which continued to sell just fine and there's no reason to think will be discontinued any time in the forseeable future.


Citation please? Like the above post, I’ve not seen any criticism of this that points to the government - this is a total straw man.


No, a straw man is taking a deliberately weak version of an argument and then attacking it.

I pointed out that Ted Cruz had made such attacks and was also trying to make money off it.

Googling for "cruz tweet seuss" will provide you with plenty of first hand information about Cruz' actions; McCarthy also beclowned himself over the issue. If you prefer to disbelieve 'a bunch' that's up to you.


> This was a company privately deciding

That was my point. Risk mitigation IMO


what consequences do you think you would encounter IRL, compared to a non-white person vocalizing that opinion IRL?

there is another comment talking about a black engineer not prioritizing this in their team and being told by the rainbow haired PMs that they were internalizing systemic racism.

do you think you would get unceremoniously cancelled instead instead of simply silenced like the black person thats assumed to be "the poor victim with no independent agency"? are you sure that is a valid fear?


As a Black data scientist I will say that words have power. That naming things has power. That acknowledging the depth of white supremacy, its depravity, and need to utterly and completely remove it and all of its vestiges is the most important work that can be undertaken.

There used to be a Confederate statue in the town square where I live. Many Black people worked over decades to point out what the statue symbolized, how the Klan had revised history in building that statue. Some white people wanted it gone. Finally a lot of white people wanted it gone. Then these same people began calling for reparations. A local college instituted reparations. There are calls to engage with land back movements.

I’ve lived through many backlash cycles. Locally we’re still dealing with egregious health disparities that are costing Black lives daily. There is gentrification. The city’s just lived through a night in which white supremacy took the lives of several Asian women.

But something has changed.

Words matter. We have to keep chipping away at this monster.


In tech, though, asians often outnumber whites at US FAANG companies. Foreigners are vastly overrepresented, jews are overrepresented, blacks are underrepresented, spanish are underrepresented.

In American politics/history I totally hear you. But maybe tech is a slightly different animal? 'White supremacy' is a tough sell when <40% are domestic-born christian white.

(none of the above comment is intended as a value statement on various ethnicities doing well/poorly, just an observation of how well they're doing).


You'd really have to look at the makeup of venture capitalists since they're the ones ultimately "in charge" of our industry.

> spanish are underrepresented.

I think you mean Hispanics and probably Latinos. Spanish are from Europe.


I'd extend these virtue signaling "moments" to stuff like changing the names of sports teams and bases and all of the attempts to scrub "offensive" things from our lexicon.

It's not just limited to "black" but also American Indians, gay people, trans, etc.

These all strike me as Priviledged people being offended for others and trying to scream "LOOK AT ME I'M FIXING THINGS!!!" with stuff that matters to no one... and in the end, they widen the divide and make everything 100x worse with all the policies to "fix" racism/sexism/all'the'other'isms but making everything about race/sex/etc.

So divisive and counter productive uses of time that solve nothing.


The sports team issue is very different.

That's a very public name widely used in commerce.

It's not like there are millions of people walking around in "master branch" t-shirts with a caricature of an overseer on it.


Yeah, but there are millions of people typing "master" branch on their keyboards, daily. Is this that different than the sports team issue?

I'm sure you can find "important" differences if you try playing Leeuwenhoek, but why?


But master can mean many different things other than “a white man owning black slaves in 19^th century US” – and was not created with this name in mind; whereas the sport team name was unambiguously chosen and featured a caricature of the very thing they chose their name after on their logo.


It's a 'caricature' in that choosing societies renown for being valiant warriors erases much complexity (how much nuance and complexity were you expecting from a sports mascot?). Anyway, if this were a sincere movement, it would similarly object to equivalent depictions of the Irish, Vikings, Romans, Spartans, Trojans, etc.


No, it's a caricature because I mistook the Cleveland Indians logo for the Washington Redskins logo, my bad.


I see your point, but even still no one objects to the Fighting Irish or Boston Celtics logos despite being every bit the caricature. Are we doing this out of respect for Native Americans, or is it to make ourselves feel noble while we (myself included) make no progress on their material concerns?


The whole "invaded their homeland and then slaughtered most of them" factor is certainly in play.


Are you being ironic or are you unaware of Irish history?


Many are woefully iggnorant of the trials of the Irish sadly.


Changing sports team names does reduce the number of people prancing around in fake headdresses and doing the "Tomahawk chop"...

I would love to spend more time on economic and tax code reform so as to make the United States more equitable. Would you like to join me? There is not a lot of benefit in arguing, "This is not the thing I think is most important for you to do, so you shouldn't do it" -- let people work on what they want to work on, and put your energy into making substantive change that you believe in.


i'm with you. it's shocking how much attention this bullshit is getting, while there are a million more imortant issues to tackle. this is misdirection at its worst.


Part of the point is to create jobs for political apparatchiks. We've trained tons of witches with degrees in whateverstudies and not much else to show for it. Ever wonder why they set up political DIE commissar's offices and demand people to get training? It's to parasitize actually productive things.


The parent post is saying that it's pointless to call this bullshit and complain about what other people are upset about. It's also saying that changing team names reduces racism as it stops people from performing racist actions that have been built into showing team support.

It's not misdirection. It's just that these are issues you personally don't care about.


"racist actions" but a vast VAST majority of Indians don't find it racist.

When everything is racist? nothing is.

That's the key problem with all of these diatribe's. Anything you disagree with is "racist actions" and thus real racist actions are lost in the sea of BS about team names and Aunt Jemima syrup.


That’s not true at all. It’s widely accepted these things are racist. I already posted the support for the name change by many Native communities.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Washington_Redskins_...


the misdirection isn't the name change itself, which is trivial in every sense of the word, it's the bullshit discussion around it. to continue focusing on it after the fact is the misdirection, keeping us from discussing substantive issues, like actual systemic, structural barriers to prosperity and equality of opportunity.


What makes the discussion bullshit? It's a hurtful name. It's good for society to recognize and discuss that.


names don't hurt. how we respond is what can hurt, how we allow words to infect us. but we have brains that can rationalize that away, make us defiant and resilient against it. we're literally talking about the trivialities of 5 year olds when we talk so incessantly about names.

what really hurts is, for instance, decades of redlining and systemic bias in politics, economics, education, nutrition, medicine, and a myriad of other daily, real issues that affect the lives of millions of americans, and billions of people worldwide.

this discussion is bullshit because we are not talking about those things. it's a misdirection.


Plenty of people are talking about those things. It's not either or.

Names do hurt. Does blackface hurt? That's essentially what having a team called the Redskins is. It's important to talk about how mass media and the mainstream will accept openly racist symbols. In the case of Native Americans it's also important to talk about how they went through a barely recognized genocide and have been systematically discriminated against in a major way.


It's important to learn about it, but being completely obsessed about the issue and view everything from its perspective is counter-productive. It's really an American thing, because many European nations went through similar experiences multiple times.


> It's really an American thing, because many European nations went through similar experiences multiple times.

It’s not even legal to talk about Nazis in Germany. Imagine the uproar if a sports team was named after a caricature of Jewish people?

People just want some basic dignity. The only people “obsessed” are those refusing to give it to them.


The sports team thing is really offensive though. They're literally using Native Americans as team mascots. Especially given the genocide that occurred. There's no reason to use any race of human, especially those who were struck with some of the worst systemic violence in history, as a mascot for a sports team.


I have a lot of Native American friends, they grouse about losing the Redskins team. I think the white SJWs don’t really understand the dynamic. Not claiming I do either but point being a lot of people took pride in that team for its name and representation, it wasn’t a joke. One of the side effects of this purge/righteous cleansing is that it’s also scrubbing out representation. Land-o-lakes being another example.


I think the Redskins example is not great, as I also know plenty of folks who support the renaming; there is plenty of division among Native folks around this name. Land O'Lakes, though, is a much more interesting example -- Patrick DesJarlait, the artist, was Ojibwe, and his son wrote a very interesting article about this for the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/29/my-ojibwe...


The renaming has very broad support in Native communities:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Washington_Redskins_...


I'm honestly still amazed sometimes that the Fighting Irish mascot of Notre Dame is still a thing. It seems inevitable that it gets relegated to the scrap heap of history at some point, but I guess people don't care as much since the Irish, at least in the U.S., mostly ended up catching a break and didn't become a permanent underclass all but obliterated from existence by military might like Native Americans were.


As someone who is 1/4 Irish, I'd say it's because we just don't care. The Notre Dame mascot is completely inconsequential. It's a mascot. Nothing more. Nothing less.

It's a privilege to not care. I feel sorry for everyone from other groups that are forced to care about inconsequential things because in aggregate all these inconsequential things that people demand that you care about end up being a denial of service attack, leaving you with less bandwidth to think about things that actually matter like working hard and working smart and building wealth.

If some group that was not Irish kept trying to get me and other people of Irish descent to waste brain cycles on such trivial non-consequential things, I'd ignore them and instruct others to ignore them.

It honestly boggles my mind that our culture has optimized for amplifying the voices of such people as it's so counter-productive.

I'm also 1/32 Native American and feel the same way about those mascots too.

It's honestly all so tiresome and wasteful of brain cycles. Heck, look how many smart people have commented on this story and all because these non-issues have been elevated to the point we're we are forced to waste brain cycles on this because it became intrusive and broke our work flows. Many activists in history have been great but much of what passes for "activism" today is not just useless, but actively counter-productive.


> I'm also 1/32 Native American and feel the same way about those mascots too.

Just because you don't take issue with it, doesn't mean it's not offensive and a big deal to other people (who are often more than 1/32 Native American). The Redskins is a racist name, anyway you slice it. Try to replace red with brown or yellow and it's immediately obvious. I don't think every single case is as cut and dry as that one, but it's not fair to call these issues inconsequential.


(https://pando.com/2014/02/12/war-nerd-the-long-sleazy-histor...) argues that the slogan is derived from a British army recruiting pitch for cannon fodder.


Notre Dame has had plenty of Irish presidents


> The sports team thing is really offensive though.

Offensive to whom?

Someone is deciding which groups deserve to be free of offense, and which groups don't.

I'd like to shine a spotlight on them, and their hypocritical abuse of power over others.


There is no third party deciding these things. People who have experienced racism are offended when it continues to happen. They can then advocate for a change and hopefully broader awareness.

There's no hypocrisy involved.


As a native, I agree with you. There aren't sports teams named after other people's skin colors. It's just weird.


It's offensive. I'm actually pretty sad that people here are so reactionary to the change. I don't understand why people would be angry, particularly because changing the name wasn't some initiative created by a giant corporation. It seems like common decency to me.


Honest question, my initial response is that it only trivializes the movement if "see, we changed something" is used as an excuse to stop there. But if it isn't... what's the harm?

Most of this family of points seems to equate 1) being in favor of changing master to main; and 2) being in favor of stopping there.


> But if it isn't... what's the harm?

Well for one thing it teaches people to be confused about the idea that meaning depends on context. Look at the dictionary definition of 'master' and you'll see that it doesn't exclusively represent the idea of a person who enslaves people. Consider:

    * master of disguise
    * grand master
    * master's degree
    * master tape
I would say that "master" as used in git is closest to the "master tape" definition: "an original movie, recording, or document from which copies can be made". That isn't quite what a master branch is, but "common name given to the main branch of a Merkle tree" probably isn't going to show up in your average dictionary.

It also creates conflict for no good reason between people who are comfortable with multiple meanings of words and people who view any objection to their interpretation of the English language as evidence of racism.


Well, what else has been accomplished? What policies are being passed that are helping materially black people? Sure, some cities have passed legislation to defund their police, and consequently murder rates are sky-rocketing (and probably not so much in wealthy white neighborhoods of those same cities nor in other more conservative jurisdictions). There are some colorblind reforms that something like 90% of Americans supported in one form or another; hardly anything controversial, but this is the most substantial thing that I can think of that can be credited as a consequence of the movement, but it's far too soon to figure out whether that will have an impact on any disparities. What am I missing? I'm guessing there are some negative effects that no one is bothering to measure, like the extent to which these vapid measures nudge people to the right or make them unsympathetic to the movement.


> What policies are being passed that are helping materially black people?

Mostly nothing. Corporations can largely only avoid harming various groups, and engaging in fair business practices. They're not set up, by their incentive structure, to do work that reforms society at large.

Even non-profits need to focus on a specific mission, and they're usually most successful by putting people in touch with each other.

Because, especially if you look at it through the lens of "material" help, the further an action is from the control of the individual being helped, the amount of good that can be done per unit effort drops off dramatically.

We normally view individualism as a normative claim, that "the rugged individual" ought to help himself. But you can cast it as an observation: most help in your life is only effective (again, in terms of return for the effort involved) if it comes from you personally or someone quite close to you.


Political capital has proven to be finite, it is similar to time being zero sum. Using political capital in a non-smart way is equivalent to wasting time.


I believe it trivializes the movement because it injects unimportant issues like git branch names into the realm of conversations about racism, police violence, harmful stereotypes, discrimination etc. It also gives ammunition to those who seek to discredit the movement for social justice. This isn't a situation like e.g. affirmative action, which demonstrably creates opportunities for minorities at the cost of some resentment from people who feel like affirmative action is unfair. In the case of "master" to "main", nobody gains anything, all it does is act is a flashpoint for bad faith actors.


I keep looking at it all and thinking "the cost of all the developer hours both inside and outside github to make this change is a depressing amount of money considering how many non-profits working for real change could've done with extra funding".


What's the harm? Read 1984 to see how the 'end state' might look like. As other commenter said, words have power. And who have power over words, rules.


The major injustices and crimes of history were profitable because a targeted group was dehumanised for the gain of others. The economic victimisation of black people in the US continues to be profitable.

> it trivializes the movement

As a developer, I am comfortable with the change in terminology. As a human... My phenotypes are different from yours and OP's, but I am certain that if we do not bring the critique to bear against systemic enslavement of people (regardless of "targeted" phenotypes), we have all missed the point and really changed nothing. Who is blacker or whiter or truer to the tribe... these are serviceable distractions.

Slavery is abhorrent to any enlightened human. But slavery existed and continues to exist because those who profit like it that way.


But what does this have to do with using the concept of master / slave as an apt technical analogy? How does changing technical terminology help close racial gaps in opportunity or change outdated attitudes on race? It seems to me (a white guy) that this accomplishes nothing compared to other uses of the time, energy, and $ that this wastes.

If I were at the head of the org I would take the time & $ that would be wasted on this effort and invest it into underserved black schools. (of which there are many in the US)


> an apt technical analogy

It's really not an apt technical analogy. The most significant aspects of the master/slave relationship (ownership) are not present in the technical version.


I think thats true for git, (altho the master branch could also refer to a master record), but there are a lot of uses of master/slave terminology in computer tech that are more apt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master%2Fslave_%28technology%2...


Pretty much none of those have the key ownership feature that is the most significant aspect of the master/slave relationship.

Most of the relationships in that list would be more accurately described as lead/follower (followers copy or join in with the actions of a leader), boss/worker (workers work on tasks given them by a boss).


In centralized coordination protocols, the follower or worker nodes do not have autonomy. That said, the master/boss/leader nodes also do not have autonomy (in the sense that they are all bound to the protocol: none of the nodes can choose to quit and get ice cream, for example). However, in human social terms, it can seem like the central coordination node has more autonomy relative to the worker nodes, but that's an illusion.

In protocols, work provider --(activates)--> work performer. None of nodes have autonomy, so any pair of terms that overlaps with (provider, performer) are equivalent.


> any pair of terms that overlaps with (provider, performer) are equivalent.

Well, some terms are more accurate and some terms have greater baggage. If we're talking about a relationship where one node gives work and another node does the work, this is the kind of relationship we see everywhere in manager/employee relationships without unnecessary and inaccurate baggage about ownership or autonomy.

It's not even necessarily the case in a human master/slave relationship that the master gives work to the slaves, the key aspect is that the slave's work is done for the benefit of the master, but the actual assigning, coordinating and supervision of the work is not a core aspect of a masters role, and being itself work, would often be delegated to someone else.


I agree with everything you wrote except for the unstated implication that the use of the word master to refer to a git branch reflects a history of slavery. If you believe this, then I think understanding why we see this differently is the path forward to a productive discussion on this issue.


> I agree with everything you wrote except for the unstated implication

I don't think language is innocent, but language is also not statically linked to history. I believe that changes to software terms do not solve any problem that the poor are facing.

Such changes make the preservers of hierarchy comfortable. That is all.


>I think the name change does more harm than good because it trivializes the movement.

What do you mean? Name change of a default branch clearly fixes issues of racism in the software industry. Racism in IT = gone


Can confirm. I’ve detected no racism on GitHub since master was renamed main.

Clearly the problem must be solved now.


This seems pretty close to just saying, “If we can’t change the world, let us change nothing at all.”

Sure, it’s trivial. It doesn’t, in any significant way, actually do anything. But I find a lot of time when reviewing code — if there are code badly formatted or variables misspelled, I have a hard time looking at the actually problems in the code until those superficial things are fixed.


But changing master to main doesn't fix anything, nor did the author find it a problem to begin with. I think the point is to focus on real change and not fake change, because the former is what's important and the latter is a distraction.


> This seems pretty close to just saying, “If we can’t change the world, let us change nothing at all.”

I don't see it that way. In my view, this change is worse than "nothing at all" because it doesn't represent any substantive change, but it does create fodder for bad faith actors to portray the movement for social justice as trivial.


On the other hand, now that the name change is done, if there are more protests then nobody will waste time talking about whether Github should change the branch name. This time, people were talking about it even before Github did anything, so it was going to be a distraction regardless. Github doing this ought to be considered just closing the book on this discussion IMO.


Sure. The change itself means nothing to me, I don't think "master" or "main" makes any difference, it's the use of github's corporate megaphone to project this triviality onto the wider discussion about social justice that I take issue with.


No, this is saying "If we can not change the world, let's do other productive things instead of meaningless distractions to feel good about changing the world."


The whole "this is pointless", "that is stupid" movement has definitely thrown up a "fuck it then" anti-signal in my mind.

If most things we can do is pointless, fuck it, everything we do is probably pointless.

I'm actively fighting against my own mindset to keep looking for things I can do that will make an effect. Most probably won't. I get it's just virtue signalling or whatever phrase of the week we're calling it but it's also inertia. Yes this one is pointless, but maybe the next step isn't.

Anyone that's ever been told what they're doing is useless will never know.

Shamefully I didn't give any consideration to anyone but myself, keeping my existing mindset everyone on the internet was a white guy like me with all the privileges I have. GitHub changing master to main might have been a joke to you, fair enough, but it opened my eyes.

I dunno I'm probably just whitesplaining, sorry.


I worry that by picking context that have zero or close to zero racist connotations like the master branch, now you are adding racism into the world by adding racist connotations to the master branch.


Also, moral licensing is a thing. “We already did our part” thinking. But they invented a new problem nobody has instead of solving an existing one...


I think the main goal for this kind of symbolic actions is to raise awareness. Only the fact that we are now here discussing about the problem, is a big success, imho. Should they also do, not only symbolic but also considerable actions? The hell they should. But that doesn’t make the first point moot.


They’re actually alienating the choir, with actions like that.

I’m a white person who has performed in a professional production of The Black Nativity. I was literally part of the choir celebrating black traditions in the US.

I now work in software and think less of any racialized group using historic struggles as a tool of power, control, and oppression in the here and now.

Historic wrongs are not an excuse for present wrongs.

Edit: pronouns are hard.


I guess by "you" you meant "they", i.e. those parent are talking about?

I was mightily confused and had to read your post three times to get an idea of what you meant.


Errr.. yes.

Poorly phrased.


The worst I have seen is the media's failure to cover that Google - and probably Microsoft too - blacklisted historic black universities for over a decade. This a juke, a pump fake - not something substantial.


I am genuinely curious: the LibreOffice team changed the file blacklist to excludelist. Do you believe this was just tokenism? I personally thought it was a great thing. But I am interested in hearing your perspective.


In my view, if the goal is productive discourse, every contentious social justice scenario demands a nuanced parsing of the facts.

I'm not familiar with the LibreOffice change, but from what I can tell, it doesn't seem like this change was delivered with any fanfare or something like an official blogpost targeting the general public and presented as an effort towards inclusion and social justice. Instead, it seems to be treated by the developers in a manner that reflects exactly what it is, a trivial relabeling, perhaps in a positive direction, but one that doesn't merit injection into the wider discourse over racial justice. The developers made this change based on their personal values and in a way that doesn't interrupt the natural workflow of the users which inevitably draws scrutiny and creates contention. I'm all for developers using whatever labels align with their values, where I have a problem is the pronouncement of such trivialities as if they represent something meaningful.


Imho meaningful change: (blacklist, whitelist) -> (excludelist/denylist, allowlist)

Imho meaningless lip service: master branch -> main branch

Also imho the most insulting towards PoC and everyone else for that matter is to patronisingly assume people can't comprehend context, as OP's article points it out.


I believe that usage of 'master' in git was copied from bitkeeper which did reference the master/slave relationship.

Whereas blacklist in its original forms was used outside of a racial context. I think it'll be pretty hard to try to break the association between black (the color) and night, hiddenness, unknown, sin, fear, etc. All of which are pretty negative, but not originally racial.

I find it difficult to distinguish one of these changes from the other in terms of usefulness.

I also don't hold much truck with the 'insulting' and 'patronising' thing. It's perfectly possible for a white person to prefer to remove inappropriate and confusing terminology that trivialised historical injustices and/or glorified things they disagree with regardless of whether or not non-white people are offended by such usage. There seems to be an underlying view that a white person could only want to change such usage for inauthentic reasons. If we want to find things patronising, I find that patronising. Just because you're white doesn't mean you can't hold an authentic position of your own on these topics.


> I believe that usage of 'master' in git was copied from bitkeeper which did reference the master/slave relationship.

The (likely) basis for this belief, the GNOME mailing list post[0] that reignited this discussion in 2019, was retracted the next year[1].

I wrote a summary of the history[2] for Git Rev News, the git developers newsletter. In short, the usage didn't come from BitKeeper, and was intended to mean 'master copy'.

After the article was published, Aaron Kushner from BitKeeper reached out and gave me some more history on the usage of 'slave repository' in that one particular spot in BitKeeper[3]: it was a presentation for a client that was already using master/slave terminology and so the same terms were used in the presentation.

0: https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2019-May/...

1: https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2020-June...

2: https://git.github.io/rev_news/2020/07/29/edition-65/

3: https://twitter.com/AndrewArdill/status/1350537333292949505


Yes, that was where I'd got that from, thank you for the correction.


I disagree for three reasons.

1) The burden falls disproportionately on Git maintainers and on people with large amounts of dependencies to the old word which is not a good way to distribute work (across tech workers) when making changes especially since some people will not even notice the change.

2) Not everyone uses Git each day and I am certain that people who continue to use the word "master" without knowing a thing about what Git is will be viewed as racist and morally inferior. E.g. (Master of Ceremonies, Master of Arts, etc.). Explain how a tech worker can agree that "master branch" is offensive but putting that they have a "Master of Science" on their CV is fine.

3) Somewhat arbitrarily changing words with a tenuous relation to racism seems like an extremely passive aggressive, murky, and dangerous path to go down. Not only does it lay a trap for people to be accused of being racist but if this is acceptable it is inconsistent with not removing all words associated with slavery. Even words with a distant relation to slavery.


"Not everyone uses Git each day and I am certain that people who continue to use the word "master" without knowing a thing about what Git is will be viewed as racist and morally inferior. E.g. (Master of Ceremonies, Master of Arts, etc.). Explain how a tech worker can agree that "master branch" is offensive but putting that they have a "Master of Science" on their CV is fine."

Honestly I find it terrifying that high ranking tech people can't see the cognitive dissonance they're showing.

Either they're lying in a pitiful attempt to fit in with the silicon valley leftist elites or they're actually intellectually inept. Either way it's not good.


> silicon valley leftist elites

Outliers like Peter Thiel aside do we actually know the personal politics and beliefs of people like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, or Marc Benioff? They all seem perfectly fine on the PR-positive side of any issue and likely skew fiscally conservatives privately on matters that concern their personal fortunes.

Sure their companies skew "progressive" with LGBTQ inclusion, some diversity hiring (YMMV and some of it appears to be purely projection), and the banning of hate speech, fake news, and calls for violence, on Twitter and the de-platforming of Parler - but is that leftist or just doing the right thing?


What their personal beliefs are is irrelevant to the discussion. Their rhetoric and actions are what define them. Right now it's aligning with far left ideology. If you believe what you wrote then you should be even more upset with what they're doing because that means when the pendulum swings back right they're gonna be smacking you in the face with tea party politics in order to garner favor of whatever right wing politician is in office.

" banning of hate speech, fake news, and calls for violence, on Twitter and the de-platforming of Parler - but is that leftist or just doing the right thing"

Hard to argue it's doing the "right thing" when Twitter lets actual dictators post to their platform and Facebook was found to be the main gathering platform for the capitol insurrection.


I find it troubling that people can find themselves so wrapped up and agitated by culture war wedge issues that they would characterize the rhetoric and actions of Jeff Bezos as aligned with "far left ideology", when Amazon is currently working to prevent workplace solidarity/unionization (a very core component of moderate leftist ideology in the context of a capitalist state).


I actually thought you meant people like the comment you're responding to, but then I realized you also appear to be arguing in bad faith.

"Master of <subject_matter>" is pretty clear in that a person has mastered a trade or an area of study! No one confuses that with the idea of "Master/Slave" or "Master Branch" which implies a hierarchy that reminds some people of slavery, particularly the slavery that was practiced in the US.

There's an obvious contextual difference, and it's not some political conspiracy from an imagined "leftist elites" that I assume you think are coming for you. Conspiracy theories are unhealthy and I personally think you should let this one go.


You know what actually sounds like a conspiracy theory? Believing that a word with no link to racism at all is racist because a company told you it was in a disgusting attempt to garner social justice points without actually doing anything helpful.

The only thing unhealthy here is inventing problems where there aren't any and then trying to force the majority population to go along with your insane ideology while trying to paint them as bigoted if they don't like it. Sounds like a recipe for creating a dystopian society.

Please tell me what good will come out of this? Because I can think of a lot of negatives.


>a word with no link to racism

Slave owning in the US was heavily linked to racist ideology, that's simply history.

> without actually doing anything helpful.

"main" is both shorter and more ergonomic to type

> then trying to force

None of my old repos have broke over the new suggested default

> insane ideology

Maybe they took not being racist a little too far, but changing a single word is hardly "insane" or "ideology".

> while trying to paint them as bigoted if they don't like it

I think the only people getting painted as bigots are the ones painting themselves with their over-reactions.

> dystopian society

With the way some of these complaints were worded, you'd think they changed the default new repo branch name to "stalin" or "karlmarx" or "漳州市" and started disabling non-compliant accounts, so I had to read the article, no it's actually a really boring and unintrusive default branch name of "main" for new repos.


So you have no explanation as to how the word master is linked to black slavery in the United States? What's the point of your comment again?

You realize that word existed before the US was even a country right? You also realize that the word is used in many contexts with no relation to anything dealing with skin color or slavery right?

"Maybe they took not being racist a little too far, but changing a single word is hardly "insane" or "ideology"."

You've got your head in the sand and are oblivious to what's going on at a national level if you think this just involves a tiny one word change happening at GitHub. There's a broader cult like indoctrination happening with the current administration and it's cascading all the way down to schools and the workplace.

I'm really tired of hearing this spiel about how we shouldn't get upset because this is just one silly word. Well since it's filling children's minds with critical race theory in schools and training them they're subconsciously evil if they're a certain color I find it quite upsetting.

Btw here's the etymology of the word to prove your point even more incorrect https://www.etymonline.com/word/master


> So you have no explanation as to how the word master is linked to black slavery in the United States?

Black slaves had something called "masters".

> if you think this just involves a tiny one word change

I literally unironically believe this, and the only skin I have in this game is that "main" is shorter and more ergnomic to type.

> There's a broader cult like indoctrination happening

Yeah, it's called "qanon" and "postmodern conservatism".

> it's filling children's minds with critical race theory in schools

I'm not an alt right extremist who believes in nonsensical white supremacist conspiracy theories, so the fact that children are getting a real education is not a problem for me.


"Master Branch" does not imply a hierarchy any more than a master key does. It's simply an original from which copies can be made.


Don't forget "Scrum Master", which seems to be a term everyone is fine with.


That sounds appropriate, scrum and slavery go well together


Well, as a scrum master, some days I feel like a scum master, which may not be that far from the truth.


Funnily enough, "scrum master" has been renamed to "scrum facilitator" at my workplace...


> some days I feel like a scum master

I'd only add for me it is every time.


>(Master of Ceremonies, Master of Arts, etc.)

Its the master/slave dynamic that is considered the issue...if there were Slaves of Ceremonies and Slaves of Arts as official titles, we might eventually take a second look at the naming too.


Good point, I gotta stop calling my feature branches `slave` it's a bad habit!

Real talk though, when this first blew up, I took the opportunity to change all my master branches to trunk, the oldest and best term for "that from which branches grow".

"main" is lame, it reeks of compromise and giving the least amount of thought possible to the replacement. Worse, it shares the same first two letters with "master", and that means more time spent typing out the wrong branch name, muscle memory being what it is.


I think it doesn't really matter what the name is as long as it's a common word that's easy to memorize. Trunk, master, main, default, current, etc. are all the same to me. But "main" saves me two characters in my shell prompt so it's marginally better IMO. The entire thing is mostly just a bikeshed.


“Master of Science” is simply a use of a different meaning of the word. If anyone is suggesting to not use “master” across the board, even in the sense of “being really good at something,” they can shove off.

While the “master” branch is clearly using master in the sense that it asserts control of the other branches in some way.

So IMO, explaining could be done by pointing at the dictionary.


No that's not how it works. You're making up definitions and applying your own meaning. This sort of thinking breaks language entirely. It's along the same lines of saying there are multiple genders and you can make up any on the spot and apply them whenever you feel like. Language doesn't work anymore if you do this.

Expecting others to know what's happening in your own head and getting offended when they don't is absolute insanity. This is why we have language standards.


Language is an entirely human creation with "standards" and definitions that have been changing constantly since humans began creating it. With the internet the english dictionary has been growing at an almost exponential rate.

Not knowing how language works and being mad that it changes LIKE IT'S ALWAYS DONE is absolute insanity. Not being able to handle change is a common problem for a lot of humans, but it doesn't mean the change is at fault, it's your ability to cope with differences as they emerge.


"Language is an entirely human creation with "standards" and definitions that have been changing constantly since humans began creating it."

Your point? Those changes happen as people in the ENTIRE society agree on them. They don't happen because a small minority or some ridiculous elitist in San Francisco pulled it out of his/her/xer ass one day and decided to dictate to everyone what a word means. If we do not agree then you're essentially creating your own language and communication becomes ineffectual.

Equally, one individual doesn't get to dictate what a word means in their own head and expect others to follow along, while accusing them of being bigoted for not doing it. The minority of offended individuals don't get the power to make these decisions.


You do realize languages change (constantly), right? This gives me the sense of someone echoing talking points picked up from spending time listening to reactionary Youtube agitators (especially the gender-focused dogwhistle)


> the “master” branch is clearly using master in the sense that it asserts control of the other branches in some way

Master as in expert, meritorious of command, arbiter of truth.

They all mean the same and you can't have a master's degree without a master copy of information.

Control is exerted only by virtue of being correct.


Git's usage is clearly more like "golden master" in the recording sense -- the original from which other copies are made.

Compare to other uses in technology that are far more directly related to control, and far less likely to change, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_Peripheral_Interface


I was going to stay out of this, but I'll add that I agree entirely with this.

Master/Slave flip-flops, on the other hand, are named for behavior closer to the connotation github is trying to avoid.

And, I'll also add, as a young White child who built and played with master/slave flip-flops, it never occurred to me to associate it with people, slavery, or racism. Maybe if I had been Black it would have been different.


> Git's usage is clearly more like "golden master" in the recording sense -- the original from which other copies are made.

Maybe it's easy to spin this way, but that's not where git's terminology comes from. It originated in a system meant to migrate away from BitKeeper, which did use the master/slave terminology. Citation: https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2019-May/...


This is addressed in the comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26499512

In short; no there is no master/slave terminology in Git. The person commenting on the Gnome mailing list was mistaken.


Has Linus or another early Git developer commented on this? If not, what matters is how people actually use Git today, to the extent that it should matter at all relative to other more significant things.


yes[1], but it doesn't really matter because even if the intention is not to be a "master/slave" reference, people will still say it is offensive. So therefore it makes sense that banning other terms like "master of science" or "master record" would also be consistent here.

[1]: https://web.archive.org/web/20200706203737/https://twitter.c...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILIkmLiT6d0

wherein a black musician explores the idea of master/slave ownership in the recording industry.

EDIT: So confusing to me why this was voted down. Please help.


EDIT: So confusing to me why this was voted down. Please help.

I'm just speculating here -- HN doesn't even allow downvotes to direct responses, so it's not me -- a little more tie-in to the thread might help understand the context and relevance of a music video (HN tends to prefer text over video, and prose/exposition over music). Or maybe there's a bot that downvotes anything with certain words. Or maybe there are one or two people who happened to accidentally downvote because the button was lined up with their thumb when they were scrolling on their phones.


alright, that's reasonable.


Same meaning, but different context of use is what I think you meant. The context is key in all these discussions. No one thinks 'master' means 'owner of human (black) slaves' in 'Master of Science' any more than they do for Github, yet here we are.


Ok, let's look at the dictionary: https://www.dictionary.com/browse/master?s=t

If we scroll to the adjective section, we see three notable definitions:

> 28 directing or controlling: a master switch.

I assume this is the definition you are thinking of?

But I don't agree that this is the definition git is thinking of. I think it's either:

> 27 chief or principal: a master list.

or

> 29 of or relating to a master from which copies are made: master film; master matrix; master record; master tape.

I would agree that the definition you are referring to has racist connotations, but I don't think #27 or #29 does.


Git's terminology descends from BitKeeper, which was explicitly using master/slave: https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2019-May/...

Additionally, I don't think sense 29 actually makes sense here. A "master copy" is immutable. Once somebody burns a master record, that's it — you're done. You make copies from that one because it is deemed "correct" in some sense.

But git branches are not immutable; they are able to be added to at any point. The master branch can be interpreted as collating the work done by all of the other branches: non-master branches do some work, then it gets merged back to `master`. Which means... the master branch is coordinating work done in other branches. And, in many git workflows, work on the master branch itself is discouraged, meaning almost all work is done in separate branches and then the master branch is used to accumulate that work, and is the main reference point to see "the current state of things". I don't think it's a stretch to see why the master/slave relationship seems a more fitting sense of "master" than "master copy".


> Git's terminology descends from BitKeeper, which was explicitly using master/slave

That GNOME mailing list post was retracted the next year[0].

I wrote a summary of the history[1] for Git Rev News, the git developers newsletter. In short, the usage didn't come from BitKeeper, and was intended to mean 'master copy'.

After the article was published, Aaron Kushner from BitKeeper reached out and gave me some more history on the usage of 'slave repository' in that one particular spot in BitKeeper[2]: it was a presentation for a client that was already using master/slave terminology and so the same terms were used in the presentation.

0: https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2020-June...

1: https://git.github.io/rev_news/2020/07/29/edition-65/

2: https://twitter.com/AndrewArdill/status/1350537333292949505


You're making unproven assumptions about which meaning applies to what.

Quick search of definitions of master include (paraphrased slightly for brevity): -(n) person with people working for them -(n) person in charge -(adj) showing great skill -(adj) main/principal -(v) to acquire complete knowledge/skill in something -(v) to overcome (as in one's emotions)

Depending on whether it had a more literal or more abstract genesis, I could see almost all of those variants apply to Master of Science.

Similarly, for master branch -- it could easily be 4 of the 6.

Now add in the fact that these meanings change over time, that they can be coined organically vs. explicitly, and that different early adopters can themselves have different connotations of the meaning in mind.

TLDR: There's nothing simple or clear about the case for removal.


I don't get this "implicit bias" concept. According to media and social media, if I deny that I'm a racist, then I'm just not aware of my implicit bias. Honest question, how is it this different from:

1, If you believe in Jesus, then you can walk on water. If you can't walk on water, then you don't truly believe in Jesus.

2, Chinese saying, "杀人诛心“,meaning that accusing one's motive is worse than killing that person, as the accused couldn't even defend against the accusation. Attacking the Motive is a logical fallacy, no?

3, Back in the 1960s in China, if you were born in a not-so-red family and denied that you were counter revolutionary, then you were just deeply counter revolutionary, and therefore deserved more severe punishment.

Since when people are not judged by their behavior but their thoughts that someone else assert?


Honest answer, generally people aren’t talking about judging people for their implicit biases, but asking them to be aware of them to prevent those biases from influencing their actions in ways they don’t intend. Those actions then may be judged, naturally.

Hopefully an example that’s not too prickly: I’m from the south of the US. I don’t have a southern accent (except when drunk or sleepy!). A lot of people, myself included, have an unconscious bias that people with southern accents are less intelligent than people without. However, I’ve known lots of smart people with southern accents, and lots of unintelligent people without them. I don’t know why I have this bias: it was instilled in me by the culture I grew up in, I guess. But, because I am aware of it, I can watch out for those reflexive feelings that make it more likely for me to dismiss something someone is saying just because of their accent. I can adjust my actions to align with the kind of unbiased person I’d like to be, even though I can’t control the lingering feelings the bias creates.

This is the general idea of wanting people to be aware of their implicit biases: not to judge them due to those biases, but to help them see that, due to societal or cultural or familial influence, they may not be living up to the kind of person they’d like to be. There’s a huge difference between someone who’s consciously racist and someone who has racist priors due to the culture they grew up in. Many in the latter group accidentally propagate racist systems, even though they would never want to do so if they had a conscious choice. But it’s hard for anyone to see how their subconscious affects their day-to-day opinions. The hope of teaching about implicit bias is that people can see its effect in their lives and make adjustments, hopefully reducing the systemic problems that people face in the process.


Don't disagree exactly, but asking people to be aware of their biases assumes the presence of those specific biases. That's easily weaponised.


Yes, and as the grandparent comment pointed out, denying or questioning the existence of the bias is by itself treated as evidence of it. That's the vicious circle you can't win against - a non-falsifiable dogma.


Please see my sibling comment to yours. I don’t generally see this treated as a “dogma,” nor do I think it should be. It’s an important part of self-reflection.

Saying “I’m not a racist” may be treated as having failed to do that self-reflection in some camps, because usually, for most people, things are more nuanced. So a sign of having done that reflection is often an unwillingness to make such categorical statements about something as complex as our own internal motivations and feelings. I’m not sure whether or not that’s fair, but I would imagine that’s where some of that comes from.


I think this is accidental motte and bailey arguing. People are being fired/cancelled for "being racist". This is not the same "being racist" as you're now saying everyone is to some extent.

Calling two different things the same thing is always a problem, and weaponisable. Which is why people do it.


To my knowledge people generally are not saying that literally everyone has every implicit bias common in their societal groups. It’s saying that certain biases are particularly common among certain societal groups, and that it’s important to introspect your own life and consciousness to see which ones you have or don’t have. Each person has some subset of implicit biases determined by their experiences, their upbringing, and so on. The important thing about knowing and acknowledging that implicit biases are a thing is that it’s the first step towards understanding your own.

It is also important to realize that most humans are biased against admitting they’re wrong, and that it’s hard to see things you haven’t perceived before. So, it can be hard to recognize our own implicit biases without conscious and honest work. All anyone is saying is that doing that work can help to make everyone’s collective lives easier.


What's also easily weaponized is the tendency to assume that they don't have them. Observing one's own implicit bias takes work, while denying they exist is easy. Being asked to look makes you feel put-upon, and that feeling is easily turned into grievance.

So if you're on the lookout for weaponization, be sure to look around widely. None of us is immune to having our "common sense" flattered.


Introspection, reflection, and self control have been valued for millennia. It's thinking you can read someone else's mind that's new.


It's true. The constant accusations of "virtue signaling" are novel. "You don't really mean what you say; you just want people to think you believe it". It's quite annoying, but I soldier on.


I wasn't talking about accusations of virtue signalling. Being holier than thou is also a well worn path.


So it seems like you're arguing against a point that I'm not making and a perception I don't hold, so it's hard for me to engage here.

Almost (probably everyone) has biases. That is nothing new, and I would think is uncontroversial. Allowing your biases to dictate your behavior in an uncritical way can be damaging, either for yourself or others. That I also think should be uncontroversial.

People who grew up in a given culture tend to have shared biases. Some of those will be useful, some will be harmful. This is not to say they that every member of that culture shares those biases. My guess is that what you're talking about is the tendency to assume that a particular member of some culture has a bias that is common in their culture as a whole (for example, to use a US-specific example, if I assume that any Southerner I meet is biased against socialistic ideas). This is clearly not always going to be accurate, but may be an assumption made for safety's sake when you're in a vulnerable population and you know that those biases can be damaging to you (if I'm secretly a communist living in the South, it may be better to hold that in on average to avoid problems).

I think the reason these conversations may seem "targeted" at well-off white people in the current cultural context isn't because other groups don't have biases (they do!), or that every white person holds a given bias (they don't!), but because well-off white people on average hold more power, and therefore their biases are as a consequence more likely to cause harm.

And also, sure, I'm sure there are people who go overboard with all of this, but that is true of literally any position. Letting the extremists define the discourse isn't going to help anything.


As a WASP, also from the south (the deep south, below the Gnat Line), I'm constantly reminded that I have an implicit bias however I've never seen nor heard of how to identify or measure such. It's really just that 'if you think this way then you have it', which is overwhelmingly unsatisfactory if it's indeed a problem I should solve. I should have awareness of what the conditions are measurements are so that I can address them appropriately. For instance if/when my doctor tells me to lose weight I need to know how much.

But this escapes me and no one seems to have a good answer. Until then I have to categorize it as an emotional response and handle it in the same way, which is basically just empathizing, consoling, and not necessarily fixing the root of the problem. I need to know what to measure and how to fix it: I've been through the corporate unconscious bias training a couple of times and it did none of that. Until then I'm a skeptic.


If you're interested in measuring your implicit bias, this site has a lot of interesting tests you can take https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

I was shocked with my own results from the gender/career bias test.

At the end of the day, the test doesn't tell you how to fix it, it shows you that these patterns of thought are deeply ingrained in how we think and the way to "fix" it is to actively go against the biases we have been trained on. There is are some good resources here as well. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/faqs.html#faq14


This output of this kind of test is determined by the order in which the categories are presented. Put male on the left and humanities on the right first, then put male and science simultaneously on the left side and it will produce the opposite result: men associated with liberal arts and women with science.


It also says

> The results may fluctuate and should not be used to make important decisions.

which is the gap.


Because of exactly that, the creators of the original implicit bias test have said it should not be used the way it has been. I think they've pretty much said the test is worthless.


I hadn't heard the term "gnat line." Thanks for introducing me! I also grew up south of gnat line, along the gulf coast of Mississippi.

To get to your comment, unfortunately I think that measuring our own thought processes is far from a solved problem. And I'm not sure that implicit biases are necessarily a problem that can be "solved." A huge part of being in society is subduing certain of our more damaging natural inclinations, essentially being civil: not yelling and hitting people when we're angry, being willing to be bored for long periods of time in order to get something we need, etc.

I really do think you hit the nail on the head with this:

> Until then I have to categorize it as an emotional response and handle it in the same way, which is basically just empathizing, consoling, and not necessarily fixing the root of the problem

Largely, these things are emotional responses, and just like emotional responses, they're not necessarily rational or useful. Often the only thing we can do is recognize that they're there, let them exist, and refuse to act on them.

To be clear, I'm not making any claims here about any kind of corporate training. I'm not sure that I'm personally convinced that mandatory corporate training does any good in any situation, although I'm inclined to say that I guess it's better than nothing, in that it at least (hopefully) makes clear what the official company line is on things, and makes it clear that e.g. blatant sexism is not okay in the workplace, even if it doesn't actually change the opinions of any workplace harassers or misogynists. That being said, I am also deeply skeptical of its ability to effect any real change in people.


[flagged]


This comment I think is implying that all biases are evolutionarily encoded, which I am certain is false. Many biases are formed by your absorption of the actions and words of the people you grow up around.

The point isn't "biases shouldn't exist." The point is, "not all biases are accurate or useful," and "some biases can be actively harmful to either yourself or others."

I used to work with chemicals frequently. Humans have a bias towards treating clear, odorless fluids as being safe. That is a deeply dangerous bias in a biochemistry lab. You've got to be aware of it and act to counteract it. In my experience, that's all anyone is asking for: that we recognize where our biases might be harmful and try to limit that harm.


Of course most biases is something we learn. Some of them can certainly be harmful if we are out of our ordinary environment, like in your example. Or if bias is based on a false assumption. Evolution simply roots out those individuals who are unable to build proper biases :)


You may want to try out one of a number of empirical implicit bias tests at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

These tests have been administered to large numbers of people and on average, almost every single person that has taken the test has scored some level of implicit bias. As a result, it's very likely (but not certain) that you ARE unaware of your implicit bias.

Of course, if you take the tests and score perfectly, you'll now be able to demonstrate empirically that you have no measurable implicit bias and will have an answer to those people who insist you do.

The reason why this is different to the walking on water statement, is that there are hundreds of thousands of data points all showing implicit bias is almost universal, whereas there are zero data points showing people can walk on water after believing in Jesus.


Good post by a psychiatrist on implicit association tests: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/iYJo382hY28K7eCrP/the-implic...

The good news:

> There's been some evidence that the IAT is pretty robust. Most trivial matters like position of items don't much much of a difference. People who were asked to convincingly fake an IAT effect couldn't do it.

The bad news:

> A common critique of the test is that the same individual often gets two completely different scores taking the same test twice. As far as re-test reliability goes, .6 correlation is pretty good from a theoretical point of view, but more than enough to be frequently embarrassing. It must be admitted: this test, while giving consistent results for populations, is of less use for individuals wondering how much bias they personally have.


The OP seemed to be talking about implicit bias in the framework of critical race theory, hence the quote "According to media and social media, if I deny that I'm a racist, then I'm just not aware of my implicit bias". That is, denying that you're racist is the proof that you're a racist. It's not about self-awareness, but about assertion.

Otherwise, I don't think the implicit bias is what OP said. Our HR would remind us recency bias, for instance, during a perf review. That kind of implicit bias does exist and is worth reminding.


I've always wondered, have there been variations on these tests that control for camera exposure levels and lighting conditions, or try to separate color from luminosity from morphology? In reaction-delay-based tests, is the delay because of bias or because of something else about what's being presented (e.g. strange wording or visual layout) requiring additional mental processing?

Teasing out those differences could help e.g. layout information and design cameras and image pipelines to reduce the effects of bias.


The viewpoint stems from the idea that implicit biases mean racism is the default state. To do something is to be anti-racist, which requires energy. To do nothing means racism persists, which could be considered pro-racism. A big part of this definition is trying to realign it with a temporary modifier, one to be avoided, but not a permanent tag.

The difference from your examples is that an act or attitude can be racist, but that doesn’t make YOU racist. You are not defined by a single event any more than a single belief defines your broader theology.


Since we are operating in a sectarian environment based on purity tests. Your actions can become irrelevant at any time once someone prominent puts a label on you, be it “communist” or “racist”.

I am not familiar with Chinese philosophy and find your perspective very interesting.


What habit is being changed? Aren't the default names defined by the git software? If so just change the software and push, but what habit was changed? Doesn't change current repos but why exactly is that the problem? If you are trying to set a precedent, i.e. stop the bleeding, then a git update would work just fine. Is it assuming that 'master' should be the default? The name 'master' doesn't have any special significance to the software interacting with it as the branch name is just an identifier. The term 'master' in the Comp. Sci. sense is jargon meaning basically 'the source of truth' not 'one that controls the wills of others'. The only habit I see being altered is to be readily conditioned to accept without question the dictates of political interest groups and large corporations as to what terminology is acceptable. Who defined these groups as the rightful arbitrators of this jargon?

"So, next time you are annoyed that you have to fix a script or you accidentally type master when you needed to type main, please just take a deep breath, change the name, and remember to reflect upon whether you have are subconscious habits or biases that work against diversity in tech."

In order words, the next time you have the urge to think critically about what you are allowed to type and who is forcing that decision upon you take a deep breath, shallow your skepticism, and reflect upon whether you have been indoctrinated enough into the new political Zeitgeist.


Just a slight perspective, I'm not from the US, I'm from israel. We have a black jewish population here, they yearned their return to Zion(israel) for thousands of years. The state of israel, invested money and effort in organizing their return.

Non of their ancestors were slaves.

We have social issues, mostly because the huge differences in culture and exposure to technological and educational advances. And the fact these people are immigrants. Sure there's racism, and troubles.

But the narrative is completely different from the american narratives. Because of the US hagemony in entertainment and media, you see young jewish black (mostly from ethiopian origin) espousing the American narrative. This is extremely hurtful for their cause as it is not into touch with their reality.

So basically, I hate the american wokeness wars because of the havoc the wreck on non american societies. Not because the blacks in the US are treated fairly, but because the media frenzy is making it impossible to actually get things better.

Not much to add, thought it might be interesting.


I see the same thing in the Netherlands; the way some people talk you would almost get the impression that Floyd was killed in Amsterdam or something.

Not that we don't have problems with racism – we absolutely do – but the context and reasons are just completely different to the point where the American conversation on the topic for the most part just doesn't apply at all, but unfortunately not everyone seems to have realized this.


[flagged]


Err, that example would be religionist, not racist, right? The African folks in question are Jewish.

I'm not saying there aren't problems with racism in Israel, or that the state isn't actively cruel to people it views as different, just that your citation doesn't seem to imply racism per se.


To quote the law: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/israel-s-law-of-return#...

> 4B. For the purposes of this Law, "Jew" means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion."

The "or" there is very important. If my grandmother were a religious Jew, and she had a secular daughter, that daughter would still be a jew (a secular jew). If that daughter then births me, that is now a generation further, where my mother was not religious, I am not religious, but both my mother and I are considered to be Jews for that law.

Due to how that is worded, one can be a secular Jew, Jewish by the bloodline of the mother (aka "race"), and one can be a religious Jew. The law applies to both, so I think it's fair to say that it's a racist law.


That's an interesting argument, I do see what you're saying. I'd counter that since someone of any race can be a Jew by this definition, it doesn't exclude on the basis of race.

The intent is also quite clearly to establish the country as a religious nation, and while I'm quite glad to live in a secular nation (the US) I don't begrudge religious nations their right to exist (eg; islamic ones).

(disclaimer, I am a secular Jew)


I also find the "or" wording of the law interesting.

I do think it's racist as it grants the privilege of abandoning the Jewish religion while remaining a legally privileged class (Jew) to people with some ancestries (Jewish) but not with others.


>I'd counter that since someone of any race can be a Jew by this definition, it doesn't exclude on the basis of race.

Ironically this is some sort of wordplay that Midrash experts love to use to circumvent outdated Talmud laws. Like, yeah, maybe you are right from the strict point of narrow literal interpretation that ignores any pragmatics, but who cares about that anyway.


How about we just use the term bigotry? Same end result.


Racism is not uniquely American, and does not require slavery.


Surely that episode where they tried to give birth control to the Ethiopian refugees in their food didn’t help things?


The original story was about injections not food, and was most likely false. Unless you are referring to a different story?

https://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2013/01/did-israelis-force...


I am no fan of the Israeli state, but that is not a thing. THere were reports of racist doctors using Depo Pravera (sp?) on Ethiopian women without their consent, if true they were rouge.


Yes I meant this.


Where does this line of reasoning end? Should we rename "master's degrees" even though there is no "slave" in this context (just like there is no slave branch in git)? I think it's important for students to take a deep breath and remember to reflect upon racism.

For context, I'm Finnish and many of my ancestors were sold as slaves as well.


Can sympathize: the reason Im in the US is because my Irish ancestors went into indentured servitude to come to the states, landed in the deep south and because of my low economic status growing up actually shared more in common with the black folks around here (went to a school system where I, 7/8 Irish, was the minority) yet I'm constantly being reminded by white folks to check my privilege. It's just hilarious from this perspective.


I'm not trying to diminish the experience of your ancestors, mine were also Irish.

But in most contexts, white privilege doesn't care about your actual ancestry. A 2nd generation black immigrant from Africa to NYC will face some of the same discrimination as a descendant from slaves. And with your white skin you will receive some of the same privileges as a wealthy descendant of the Mayflower.

It doesn't really hurt to recognize this, and it doesn't have to "erase" the pain that your ancestors went through. It's simply recognizing that there are inherent subliminal biases in our systems and society.


My white privilege must have been on vacation growing up because my parents were too poor to pay the light bill several times and eventually were foreclosed upon (this was way before 2008). And it certainly wasn't around when I had to work as a farm hand for less than minimum wage in high school to help pay the bills. A lot of what's perceived as white privilege is actually economic privilege, and most of the rest is made up.


I wonder how poor whites react to their resume getting tossed out for not being diverse enough [0][1].

[0] https://www.theverge.com/2018/3/2/17070624/google-youtube-wi...

[1] https://www.wired.com/story/new-lawsuit-exposes-googles-desp...


“You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula of doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity."

-MLK


Again, even people with privilege can have a really hard life. But you do in fact have the privilege of driving a car without the threat of being pulled over for how you look, or walking down the street without being asked questions, or boarding a plane without being "randomly" searched.

It's a form a privilege. It doesn't make you bad. It doesn't mean your life is easy. But it's worth recognizing.


Let's assume that you're completely right, and a white person has all those privileges that you pointed out.

Now let's compare this theoretical white person to a theoretical black person with none of these privileges. One caveat though, the white person is poor and the black person is rich.

Now the question is, does the economic privilege of the black person offset the other privileges of the white person?

In my opinion and the opinion of the person you're replying to, the answer is yes. Economic privilege generally outweighs other privileges, so focusing on these other privileges seems counterproductive if we want to increase equality.


The only thing I can assume is the whole woke/privilege thing has been devised by people out of touch with the common American experience.

If you think a poor white person can drive around West Virginia in a beat up car without being pulled over and harassed because they look like they deal meth you don’t know what the average experience is like.


This happened to me in high school. I was taking some of my buddies home from football practice and was pulled over. Me (the one white guy) and two black guys. A sheriff's deputy pulled us over. He asked us to get out of the truck and sit on the ground while he asked us questions, a lot of questions. A few minutes later another deputy showed up and asked if he could search the truck. The deputy that pulled us over was black, the other was white. They thought I was buying or selling drugs. Given the amount of drug activity in the area, and that the area was mostly black and I wasn't gave him reason to pull me over.

If someone wants to say my privilege was not living in that type of area then I guess maybe, though my situation wasn't too much better. This whole notion of having privilege is absurd.


It's actually "majority privilege." It's just called white privilege in the USA because that has historically been the majority color. Go to any country, or geographic area, and you fill find a majority race/sect/tribe/religion that gives them more privileges/rights than the rest of the people who live in smaller numbers, because there are less of them in numbers to win a vote (or whatever.) You will also find that majority holding some sort of power over the minorities in the area. Can you think of a country where this hasn't been true at some point in world history? China? Russia? Nigeria? Mexico? Cambodia? Vietnam? Greece? Rome? Rwanda?


I totally agree with you. We were talking about the US.

In some cultures, the aspect of giving every single person inalienable rights and equality isn't explicitly valued like it is in the west. I wouldn't want to impose western values on those cultures.

However, your argument boils down to whataboutism. Yes there are other countries with other forms of privilege. Yes there are civilizations in the past with other forms of privilege. In the US we tend to value equality, and in the pursuit of that we must recognize all forms of privilege that exist in our society. It doesn't matter that it exists elsewhere.

FYI I am not at all talking about the original article. I was simply responding to this tangent comment thread.


An awesome take away from the comment you replied to may be: why call it white privilege? It’s seems better to call it majority privilege. It’s more accurate, more general, less inflammatory, less targeted, less convoluted. It seems better in every way. Focusing on whiteness just serves to entrench people (as anytime you call someone’s intrinsic traits harmful, you tend to offend). Why don’t we just call it majority privilege?


> white privilege doesn't care about your actual ancestry

Only because there haven’t been any large groups of white immigrants to the US in recent history. If there were, you could expect to see the same sort of intolerance you can see in Europe, where some people really do care a lot about your ancestry, even if you’re just as white as them.


The "master" bedrooms in houses are now being called "primary" bedrooms by some realtors.


This is insane and disgusting.


Not sure why you are being downvoted. It is disgusting. It does nothing to help with any of the real issues. It just creates this sad gestapo culture where there is a rush to jump all over someone over something trivial and meaningless. The infringer of the rule is punished, the punisher feels superior, and nothing really improves. The enemy of progress is silencing discussion and stupid "bans" on everyday words just makes people hesitant to speak less they violate the latest woke rules. (Like every word that has "man" in it instead of "person/woman/whatever".)


> It just creates this sad gestapo culture where there is a rush to jump all over someone over something trivial and meaningless.

That's not what the Gestapo did.

This, too, is a bit of an overreaction.


That seems a bit of an overreaction, doesn't it?


Using black justice as a pawn to further their own image and agenda? No. Not really. These realtors want to cash in on this bandwagon. I am disgusted, indeed.


Let me just thank you personally for the money I'm getting out of this. I went into Social Justice Warrioring for the feel-goods, but the buttload of cash is definitely a nice bonus.


Imagine being disgusted by the largest bedroom being accurately described as the "primary bedroom".

There's nothing objectionable about this.


I am not disgusted by the master/primary word game.

I am disgusted at corporations, companies and professionals tagging on the bandwagon with PC. It is just not genuine.


It can be genuine, virtue signaling, and profitable all at once. They aren't mutually exclusive.


Purposely being obtuse?


That is quite cheap disgust, surely?


Disgust always is, is why humans partake in it so frequently.


More charitable reading would be that they don't want to offend potential customers. I mean, I guess that can be seen as "cashing in," but then all good customer service could be dismissed in the same fashion.


yeah, but how out of touch do you have to be to realize that the customers this would actually affect would not be offended.

its only the people that would be vicariously offended.


From the perspective of a salesperson, does it matter who gets offended, or for what reason? They lose the sale either way.


It doesn’t matter for the salesperson

Its optimal for them to make up parts of houses and arbitrarily rename neighborhoods to attract the most people


> For context, I'm Finnish and many of my ancestors were sold as slaves as well.

Just wanted to point out there's a huge difference here. Black communities in America very much live with the legacy, and remanifestation (I recommend reading The Color of Law), of slavery in their everyday lives. At one point in US history, nearly 10% of american identified as KKK members. Do you think all of them suddenly disappeared.

There's also huge legacies in our academia. Just a couple decades ago sociology was essentially the study of eugenics in our own country while anthropology was the study of eugenics in other countries. Even commonly used terms in statistics (e.g. regression to the mean) root from the study of eugenics. There's been much scholarship dedicated to clearly tracing these roots and a constant theme of antiblackness

PBS has a great history documentary called "American Experience: The Eugenics Crusade" that I'd highly recommend if you wanna start to dig at the heels of how deeply rooted this is in our culture


"I want to share my own reactions to the name change since this is a really interesting topic. For context, I'm an African American, so many of my ancestors were slaves."

Yes and so were the ancestors of every race on this planet at some point.

"So, next time you are annoyed that you have to fix a script or you accidentally type master when you needed to type main, please just take a deep breath, change the name, and remember to reflect upon whether you have are subconscious habits or biases that work against diversity in tech"

What exactly am I supposed to be reflecting on? I don't need useless word changes that cause issues at my job to do that. This sort of strange thinking that somehow language causes racism and not the other way around needs to stop. It lacks so much logic it's infuriating, especially for people in tech fields. Additionally, you're simplifying words to one specific meaning when in reality the word master gets used in a multitude of different contexts that don't have any relation to black slavery AT ALL.

How about we do something useful with our time instead of constantly looking for victim hood and racism where it doesn't exist? I guess I should be somewhat encouraged because the fact that people have the time to worry about which words might be offensive (or make things offensive that aren't) means they're doing pretty damn well. So well, in fact, that they don't actually have enough going on in their lives and are making problems where they don't exist. The massive con here though is that eventually if you tell enough people they're victims of a system and can't help themselves it'll eventually cause real societal harm.....


“Yes and so were the ancestors of every race on this planet at some point.”

Great point! Everyone acts like history started in the 19th century. When you take a step back and learn about history on larger spans, it’s obvious that enslavement was common all over the globe. More people should learn that the world slave originates from the ethnic name “slav”, because Slavic people from central and eastern people were frequently enslaved by Moors, who come from the north of Africa.

“The massive con here though is that eventually if you tell enough people they're victims of a system and can't help themselves it'll eventually cause real societal harm.....”

Agreed, and I’m afraid we’ve already reached that point.


The big difference was that many cases of slavery weren't done based purely on physical attributes, such as skin colour but tended to be based on nationality, opportunistic, or situational. As far as I know, racial-based slavery is actually comparatively recent, and there are a lot of effects that you don't have with slavery as practiced by e.g. the ancient Greeks or Romans.


It's good that you find this GitHub initiative a useful reminder that racism can run very deep (including apparently harmless language), but for many people it is a reminder that:

  - GitHub prefers cheap virtue signaling not only to actually caring about racism, but to technical merit and customer service: the public pays for this PR stunt with *millions* of adjustments to their repositories and working copies
  - Branch names, and many other similar things, are now a battleground for freedom of expression, exposed to dangerous  storms of political correctness
  - GitHub has the arrogance of trying to control how people call their branches, and ultimately people's political ideology through the manipulation of language
For me and many others, the habit that is going to change (maybe slowly) is using GitHub.


Almost none of what you just said is true.

> - GitHub prefers cheap virtue signaling not only to actually caring about racism, but to technical merit and customer service: the public pays for this PR stunt with millions of adjustments to their repositories and working copies

Neither git nor GitHub is forcing the branch names to change. git added the ability to specify a default branch instead of hardcoding it to 'master'. Github is taking this into consideration by allowing the users to specify their own default branch as well, and updating documentation and command examples to use 'main' as the default branch name.

> - Branch names, and many other similar things, are now a battleground for freedom of expression, exposed to dangerous storms of political correctness

No freedom of expression concerns here. You actually have more freedom now as git, GitHub, GitLab now make it easier to choose your own default/primary branch instead of hardcoding it to initialize to 'master'.

> - GitHub has the arrogance of trying to control how people call their branches, and ultimately people's political ideology through the manipulation of language

GitHub is not controlling anything. You, like always, can name your default branch 'master' if you want.


Microsoft can't stop publishing shit code full of security holes that get hacked every other day. If you want your software project to go south in a hurry take a dependency on any Microsoft product. This should be reason enough to ditch M$.


Or I'll reflect about an American company imposing change to the rest of the world about domestic issues.


Fair enough. American companies (and people) definitely have a home bias. I guess to be constructive, I would suggest that perhaps there are parallels in your country.


the author of this article is British


But not the person I'm replying to.

sjm 34 days ago [flagged] [–]

So which utopian country do you live in where racism is not an issue?


Please do not take HN threads further into flamewar. We're trying to go the other way here, to the extent possible.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I never said that, I answered in the context of changing "master" and thinking about bias.

FWIW I live in Paris, France and I think the tech scene is quite diverse here.

And I'm not saying racism is not an issue, but I also have black friends that told me that they never experienced it.


I'm also French (but living in the US). How is that not selection bias if you only ask your friends which I presume you met through school or work? These friends have already overcome the hurdles that minorities have to go through.


Of course it's selection bias and that's why I specifically did not generalize their case, but I'm not sure what "hurdles they had to go through" if they basically said they had none?

In the end you'll find that it's the classic divide between Europe and America, seeing society as different classes versus different "races".


> I'm also French (but living in the US). How is that not selection bias if you only ask your friends which I presume you met through school or work? These friends have already overcome the hurdles that minorities have to go through.

Many statements are selection bias or apex fallacy. The author of the original article talks about $20m donations as though that's the case for the majority of white people, instead of just a rounding error. What's worse is assuming that an observation must be selection bias, when selection bias needs demonstrating.


I was not replying to the article but to conradfr.


It would be very disingenuous to credit the French with being a very tolerant society. They are many other things, but tolerant is not one of them.


By what measure? I’d argue that the majority of countries in the world are “less tolerant on average” than France, and the vast majority of societies in human history have been less tolerant than modern France. Thus, France is actually incredibly tolerant in the grand scheme. What’s your yardstick in leveling such accusations?


I don't have the time to give you an essay on this, but here's the very first search result on this topic - and it's a pretty good one [0]. Note that France was the first country in Europe to do that. Coincidence?

"In 2010, France passed a law prohibiting people from wearing clothing in public that covers your face. And although many blasted the law as Islamophobic, the "burqa ban" remains in place today, punishable with a fine and citizenship course."

Here's the third search result for the term "is france a tolerant society?", from Wikipedia which has a wiki dedicated to that topic [1]:

"Racism is regarded by many in French society as a significant social problem. Racism against Jews and Muslims has a long history, and acts have been reported against members of resident groups including Algerian, Berbers and Arabs. In 2016, the French National Commission on Human Rights reported that 8% of French believe that some races are superior to others."

[0] https://www.npr.org/2020/04/28/847433454/from-niqab-to-n95 [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_in_France


And just to make sure my original sentiment comes across as intended: France is awesome and I loved every minute I spent there. But I wouldn't list "tolerant" as an attribute that would come to mind when trying to describe its culture to someone who's never been there.


> FWIW I live in Paris, France and I think the tech scene is quite diverse here.

Having free education for everybody surely helps.


"I also have black friends" is anecdotal evidence at best. Regarding the diversity of the tech scene, it's not that good in France.


Well ethnic studies are forbidden in France so it's hard to not relying on anecdotal data for this topic, so all I know is that I've got managers and colleagues of all colors.


> ethnic studies are forbidden in France

Yep, crazy. As an offshoot of that, affirmative action is also forbidden. True story.


Less crazy when you learn why: "There are no public policies in France that target benefits or confer recognition on groups defined as races. For many Frenchmen, the very term race sends a shiver running down their spines, since it tends to recall the atrocities of Nazi Germany and the complicity of France’s Vichy regime in deporting Jews to concentration camps. Race is such a taboo term that a 1978 law specifically banned the collection and computerized storage of race-based data without the express consent of the interviewees or a waiver by a state committee. France therefore collects no census or other data on the race (or ethnicity) of its citizens."[0]

tl;dr: such data was used during the Nazi occupation and France helped deportation

[0]: https://www.brookings.edu/articles/race-policy-in-france/


I am not implying that France had some hidden motives in passing this legislature. But WW2 trauma is preventing them from making policy decisions that would benefit the society today. Here's just one very practical example of that: in the below WSJ article [0], it's claimed that the lack of ethnic statistics has contributed to housing and employment discrimination, among many other problems.

[0] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/coronavirus-fran...


They need ethnic statistics to prove that residents of denser neighborhood working essential jobs (that can't be done remotely for the most part) are disproportionately affected by COVID?

I'm sure the far right in France would love to have ethnic statistics, especially for crime rates... it's the left that historically pushed back against it.


Agreed. I'm not defending the lack of ethnic statistics. Just offering the perspective from the other side. I strongly believe you cannot improve things you do not measure.


> the lack of X statistics has contributed to problem Y

The term "contribution" implies active impact on a problem. It comes from the Latin "contribuere" which means to "bring together" or to "add". If X contributes to Y, you should be able to measure the contribution, but there's no way to measure the impact of something that never existed in the first place.


It depends. Affirmative action depending on skin colour is giving someone a different treatment because of their skin colour, which is racist.

There are several forms of affirmative action that depend on things like income and local disparities.


> What's powerful about this name change is that it pushes us to alter a habit, in my case one embedded deeply in my fingers, something that I do every day without realizing that I'm doing it. Thus it is a useful reminder of the implicit bias that contributes to the lack of diversity in tech. Never mind that the old name was harmless, the change brings repeated awareness to an important topic, and it reaches a the developer community in a targeted way.

My guess is that it ingrains a different habit--patting ourselves on the back for 'defeating racism' via some banal change or other. Or worse, that it leads them to write off the whole movement as disingenuous for all of its focus on pointless endeavors. It's probably another drop in the bucket of things that make people actively unsympathetic and perhaps even drives them toward the open arms of the far-right. Call me cynical, but it seems unlikely that any substantial change is going to manifest from this. Just a little more self-righteousness for some people and a little more bitterness for others.


> What's powerful about this name change is that it pushes us to alter a habit, in my case one embedded deeply in my fingers, something that I do every day without realizing that I'm doing it. Thus it is a useful reminder of the implicit bias that contributes to the lack of diversity in tech. Never mind that the old name was harmless, the change brings repeated awareness to an important topic, and it reaches a the developer community in a targeted way

This is a really interesting framing and I appreciate it.

As a Caucasian American, I have been perplexed by this issue. The terminology change itself didn't especially annoy me - you don't have to change your existing repositories after all - but it didn't seem to really accomplish anything useful. My instinct was that this served no purpose beyond PR ("virtue signaling") and might be mildly harmful at worst (as a distraction from important structural issues, a constant reminder to right-wing people how annoying liberal scolds can be to them) without any upside I could actually envision.

I feel like what you describe was very far from the original intent, whatever it might have been, but I appreciate that it may help in some small way I did not envision.


I agree that it served no purpose, and yet this thread appears to have found one: the virulence of the objection is so out of proportion to the magnitude of the change that it raises the question of just what is really at the root of it.

It is entirely about those "annoying liberal scolds"... and the way anything they say will be turned into an existential crisis. I feel like this is less about any actual change as a constant search for a thing to be aggrieved about, and when found, pounced on with absolutely maximum force.

I think of it as "vice signaling": performing the objections without even a moment's thought, not for the purpose of refuting it but to be seen as being the most, loudest, most obnoxious opposition.


> the virulence of the objection is so out of proportion to the magnitude of the change that it raises the question of just what is really at the root of it....I think of it as "vice signaling": performing the objections without even a moment's thought, not for the purpose of refuting it but to be seen as being the most, loudest, most obnoxious opposition.

I don't feel like we're reading the same thread. There are plenty of reasonable objections in these comments, and dismissing as you do is, to me, as intellectually shallow as the change in question.


I think the same could be said in reverse: if this change is truly so small and insignificant, why was it done in the first place? The frustration is at the paternalistic and placating nature of it - really, Github did their part by renaming version control tree titles? It reads like an Onion article, but it’s actually just a serious change by people too out of touch to realize how ridiculous it is. That’s where the frustration comes from. Nobody would care if they changed master to main to boost efficiencies, the annoyance is that they were motivated to do so in some brainlesss attempt to fight racism, but just revealed themselves to be vacuous


I have an honest question for you and others who are directly impacted by this, and would love to hear your perspective.

I work on a software team that has the usual level of diversity, an almost equal mix of East Asian, Indian, Middle-Eastern, and White developers, a few women, and not a single black developer. Here's the problem though... I've been part of the screening and interviewing process and we've only had ONE black person apply, he was an immigrant from Africa. He made it all of the way through the interview process, but did not get the job for reasons that I am unaware of, though I did give him a yes vote as he seemed competent and friendly to me.

Given that we have screened and interviewed hundreds of applicants and as far as I'm aware he was the only black developer to apply, how can we as individuals on the team make a difference to try to be more inclusive?

This has been true everywhere that I've worked. In my entire career spanning > 25 yrs I've only had the opportunity to work with one black developer. He was extremely good, but timid, very soft spoken, and too quick to self-judge, leading to him not very proactive at advertising his successes, which was unfortunate as he was doing great work, but not recognized by the majority of the team. When I later became his manager I would go out of my way to ensure that every major accomplishment of his was widely publicized, but by then the perception had already been set.

It seems to me that the root problem is further up than the hiring process -- it feels like it's something that needs to start at a younger age, encouraging more people outside of the usual circle to consider tech as a career in the first place, but maybe I'm not blind to my own short-sightedness and would love to be shown where I personally can effect change.


You need to better define the problem you are trying to solve. For example in my team in Europe there is no black member; there is no black person in the entire building and just a few in the entire city, maybe none in this kind of job, so I don't consider we are not inclusive by not having a black member in the team. You can have a problem if you are exclusive, but you cannot force inclusivity for the sake of just doing something that sounds good.

What is the goal of inclusivity? What is better for your team, having the best developers or having the most diverse developers? What is the productivity and value of diverse developers versus expert developers? Is a developer more valuable because of the skills or because of the skin color? Would you want to be treated by a competent doctor or by a black doctor? I am not saying there are no competent black doctors, but you make it sound that color is more important than competence.


Diversity brings value by bringing different perspectives to the problems we solve and the solutions we seek. We all have blind spots, and having a broader perspective can help us see more than we would otherwise, even where we’re unaware that we currently cannot see.


That is diversity in experience, culture or opinions, not skin color. You are also assuming that the different perspective is a positive contribution, even if in many cases it just brings more tension because people have very strong different opinions on bikeshedding. The biggest problem is when forced diversity comes at the expense of skills due to lack of supply, which is a very real thing.

Imagine the coal mine next to you that has the target to hire a certain percent of black people, 50% females and 5% LGBT: it would close instantly because it cannot meet the target. But just imagine the value of the different perspective a black coal miner would bring, compared to the wonderful perspective of the female miners.


Ok, so you think that black and white people are different for some social reasons. What if they are different in such way that black people are less likely to want to be programmers? What is even the issue here? Isn’t this also diversity? After all, not all white people are programmers and there is no reason to expect that the rate of software engineers among white people is “optimal” in the social sense.


recruit at universities where they attend.

reach out to people with the skillset you like.

black engineers have jobs. the government and defense contractors recruit at schools that have a higher percentage of black software engineers. its not that hard of a concept.


There's no amount of shuffling the deck chairs that gets out of the stark fact that black developers are a lower percentage of the developer population than black people are of the American population. I'd be surprised if the former broke 5%, but let's say 5% for the sake of argument.

I know a few black developers. They have no problem staying employed. Big surprise! They're developers, we're blessed to have a chronic shortage of labor. There isn't an untapped labor pool of chronically underemployed black developers, because they aren't incompetent at greater rates than their non-white peers.

So with extraordinary effort, a company can get up to the ~13% ratio which would represent parity. Or a black startup founder from an HBCU could draw on her peers and get a much higher percentage.

But, relentlessly, that means other companies will have even fewer than 5%. If having 13% of American-born developers be black is a worthwhile goal (and I don't see why not), hiring harder can't reach it. It just can't.


Just to put some actual numbers behind this: it looks like 3% of AP Computer Science exam takers are black [0], and 6% of computer science and engineering graduates are black [1]. But only 1% of "technical workers" at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter are black, and only 26% of black CS grads (vs. 40% of white CS grads) go into CS jobs - looks like most of the 14% go into operations and administrative roles [1].

So clearly and unsurprisingly there is a problem at the top of the funnel (3% << 13%), but it sure seems like there's a problem lower in the funnel too. I assume those folks aren't turning down SWE job offers to take administrative jobs. To your point, obviously every engineering team can't be 13% black if only 6% [2] of people qualified to write code are black, but if big organizations are way below 6% black it seems fair to ask why.

[0] https://www.edweek.org/teaching-learning/no-girls-blacks-or-...

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/upshot/dont-blame-recruit...

[2] Using the share of black CS grads as a somewhat bogus approximation, this is probably an underestimate since black developers are disproportionately likely to come from non-traditional backgrounds, as the article points out


> I assume those folks aren't turning down SWE job offers to take administrative jobs

This is a reasonable assumption, though I'm interested what they classify as Office and Administration.

There could also be some confounding variables here. For example, perhaps black people are less likely to move across the country for jobs because they prefer to stay close to family (I.e. cultural differences).

Of course, the easy way out is to say that the system is biased against black people. Which might well be true, but we don't know that.

I think Asians are a very interesting example of the effect of culture. There is definitely strong cultural pressure for them to go into specific fields and be high achievers, so it's no surprise to me that they are massively overrepresented in the Computer and Tech field.

This is all to say: I agree it doesn't look great, but there could easily be hidden reasons for the large drop off in the funnel.


So what you are suggesting is to go beyond normal company business to recruit black developers? I.e. to give black developers an advantage over all others. That's a textbook definition of a racism, don't you think?


normal company business involves recruiting at universities. that person's company business does not seemingly recruit at all "nObOdy ApplIeD?!?!", many companies like theirs do recruit and chose to recruit at certain universities and act just as confused as that person's company, when there are simply more universities that can be recruited from and many of those have a higher percentage of engineers that are black.

you are desperately looking for something that wasn't suggested or said, but if you weren't (despite asking a question and responding with a conclusion you already had) the answer to your first question is "no". it would not be racist to expand recruiting to more engineering schools. and outside of that many existing recruiters have no difficulty reaching out to engineers with skills they like, this person's company does not seem to do that.


If you recruit from best universities and you decide to recruit from some universities because they have more people of a specific race, that is a racial based decision and it makes it racist. Including based on race is as racist as excluding based on race.


if you acknowledge that the “best universities” dont create better or more productive programmers for what companies in the sector actually do, and those universities’ demographics are perpetuated by socioeconomic disasters then you are simply expanding your recruiting efforts

also this person’s company doesnt do any recruiting so that not a strong argument for them


I fully agree that the best universities don't have the exclusivity on the best output, but the classification of what is considered "best" should be based on the average quality of the output.

Also recruiting in universities is an effort that does not scale, I did that for about 5 years and it was not possible to reach all the universities in my country, so I had to limit myself to the universities in the top 3-4 cities that I could reach. Yes, I left out some that may have some good candidates, but this is a limitation of resources and not an intentional exclusion "I don't go to X because I don't like them". In the old days companies were not putting announcements to hire in every newspaper in every small city across the country, but only in key places to maximize output per cost.


Expanding recruitment won't be racist by itself, no. But going beyond what company is doing now to hire more _black_ devs would be (they didn't ask where to recruit people, so they probably have enough candidates, the question was "where to recruit black devs if we don't have any black candidates").


its not prejudiced

its not harming other groups

expanding recruitment efforts to places that include more black developers is not racist by any definition. maybe you aren't reading this the same way, its places that also include more black developers

it is not racist by any definition of the word. just because they change a practice does not make it racist, even if their reasoning was as contrived as you think it is, it still would not be racist/prejudiced/exclusionary-to-other-groups when the result is simply expanding efforts to places that also include more black developers


Well, if going out of your way to hire people of certain race isn’t racist, this word has clearly lost all its meaning.


1) no definition of that word has ever been that, so once your life long acid trip is over you can join us in this dimension

2) we're talking about expanding recruiting for all races and somehow you still misread that, choosing to focus on the reason that recruiting would be expanded as controversial


1) For me it clearly seems like a case of racial bigotry.

2) That’s a very dishonest framing of the issue. And I am not even sure why focusing on the controversial part is used as accusation of something bad ?


To me, "master" and "slave" are historic terms used throughout electrical, software, even entertainment industries.

Eliminating words from a vocabulary is very 1984-like. Those words have a deep historical meaning, allowing ourselves to just "remove them" is akin to forgetting and ignoring the dark past of slavery, rather than remembering and acknowledging it (with the hopes it will never happen again).

Saying that it helps change habits (in my opinion) is analogous to saying that preventing kids from playing violent video games will reduce mass shootings (there is evidence it does not). I disagree with your premise that this pushes us to change habits and is only a mechanism to be ashamed of our shared (and dark) history. Lest we forget.


Github isn't eliminating any words from anyone's vocabulary.

This thread has demonstrated that plenty of people are committed (har har) to calling their repository's je ne sais quoi branch `master`.

While I'm with you that I don't understand how this will move the needle on racial equity, I'm uncomfortable with how visceral of a reaction a group of technology professionals is having to what is essentially a library changing a default value.

Like, vocabulary changes all the time. Technology changes even more frequently. Why y'all so scared to use a different label?


When you write software, you should only change a default value for a good reason. This was...not that.

I agree that the outrage can sometimes seem out of proportion to the change itself, but I can also understand why people who write software in general would be offended by the silliness of the whole episode.


Has Github stated a reason?

I read the announcement from Oct. 1 [1] and it doesn't have any explanation outside of a link to a Software Freedom Conservancy [2] (the folks now maintaining Git)

A lot of people here are assuming virtue signaling, but it could just as easily be "a majority number of our staff was behind this change". Unless GitHub has stated the why somewhere (I spent ~5m googling to no avail) we simply don't know.

[1]: https://github.blog/changelog/2020-10-01-the-default-branch-... [2]: https://sfconservancy.org/news/2020/jun/23/gitbranchname/


> Why y'all so scared to use a different label?

Because you just created a massive amount of tech debt that needs to be addressed in the here and now without convincing people that creating this tech debt was worth creating in the first place and when there is a lot of other tech debt that actually matters that still hasn't been paid off.

Like someone else said here: "On one hand, here I am trying to get work done and on the other hand you have these people actively slowing me down. These people are my enemy"


This change only affects newly created repos, how does it create tech debt? I suppose some tooling may need to be updated, but if your tools are to brittle to support a different branch name.. sheesh

I would posit to your quotee that they're being phenomenally self-centered.

Github has been mum about the why behind this change, but I'd bet my hat it wasn't because they wanted to actively slow down't their users.


At my organization, we are being pressured to change existing repos to use "main" with the implication that we are racist if we do not. But even if we leave existing repos alone, now we all have to remember which repos use master and which ones use main. We tend to have people working across many different repos, so it's a headache waiting to happen either way.


> This change only affects newly created repos, how does it create tech debt? I suppose some tooling may need to be updated, but if your tools are to brittle to support a different branch name.. sheesh

This is overly dismissive. Build pipelines that interact with bespoke branches now need dynamism for backwards compatibility; a value that was previously static is now changeable. That doesn't really qualify as brittle to me; that any value in a codebase must be changeable is a ridiculous requirement from a codebase.


Don't forget documentation. Massive amounts of tutorials and FAQs will now be more confusing to newbies.


Can you give me a real example?

I work with build systems in my day-to-day, and I can't remember the last time I worked with something that didn't support dynamic branch names but did support git

But my experience is obviously skewed by where I work.


I'm specifically thinking of git-flow (https://nvie.com/posts/a-successful-git-branching-model/); every build system I've interacted with has been some flavor of this. The crux here is that there is a single branch that deploys occur from. Not uncommonly, this is the default branch.


Sure, I defo have opinions on git-flow.

But with every build system I work with (which are: Jenkins, Concourse, Github Actions, and Gitlab CI) you can make any branch you want the branch-to-build-on.


I don't mean to say that it's not totally fixable. Up until this change, it was a reasonable assumption for any org to make, that the default branch will be the same for all projects. Now, either the default branch on any new repo must be manually set to the old default, or the build system must be updated to handle non homogenous default branches.


> This change only affects newly created repos, how does it create tech debt?

Every book and piece of documentation on git is now obsolete. People learning git will now hit a wall trying to do very basic things.


>So, next time you are annoyed that you have to fix a script or you accidentally type master when you needed to type main, please just take a deep breath, change the name, and remember to reflect upon whether you have are subconscious habits or biases that work against diversity in tech.

This is an extremely privileged and dangerously ignorant point of view.

There are more people living in slavery across the world right now than ever before in human history.

Maybe we should reflect on that fact instead of simply covering up words which make us uncomfortable in a vain attempt to expiate self imposed guilt for being born with a particular shade of skin.


My reaction was to instantly think that I'm on one side trying to get things done and SJWs are on another side slowing me down.

I don't care if it's a new JS library breaking dependencies to support import instead of require or if it's idiots changing names of things. These people are my enemy.

If I already have zero tolerance for whatever virtue signalling crap is popular in the mostly white and affluent San Francisco, is because of behaviours like this one.

On the bright side, this can help more people to discover there is a world outside of the liberal bubble, hopefully contributing to a more balanced society.

(black ancestors, libertarian background)


I'm white, but first generation immigrant. I think the change that GitHub did is as well for the wrong reasons. It's not because it is offensive, but because it might be reminding people of US history that many people are ashamed of (it reminds me of Aushwitz, the reason the place is still open and allows tourists is so we don't forget about it and won't repeat the history). The master in git wasn't even related to slavery, its meaning comes from meaning like master copy.

I don't mind change if it is for the better, for example postgresql instead of master-slave uses master-standby which is much more accurate how the replication works. Perhaps using main by GitHub is better, but because of timing, it feels like it was made to help forget about that part of the history, which IMO is doing the opposite of what was intended.


I've seen many replies, but not this one, so I'll chime in.

I am not concerned about diversity in tech and this was never on my mind until it started getting shoved down everyone's throat by American companies and activists. Many European countries blindingly copy whatever comes out of the USA, so now it's here too.

For me it's just one more annoying thing I feel that some privileged brats that I never met and don't care to meet are forcing others to spend time on.


While there may be plenty of people of all races who were not offended by the name, when you operate at the scale of a GitHub there is going to be some percentage who are. Some of them will complain. A company like GitHub then has two main options: change the name, or defend not changing the name. Whichever one they pick is going to cause various forms of backlash from various people, but it’s pretty obvious that changing the name is more defensible and the better long-term approach.


But, this argument rationales mob rule over reason. The name change is defensible to avoid "various forms of backlash from various people".

"Some of them will complain" -- a majority? Then yes, it makes sense to listen and adapt. Or, a loud minority who threatens? I don't believe that the change was made due to any overwhelming user feedback.


>it’s pretty obvious that changing the name is more defensible and the better long-term approach.

Is it the better long-term approach? If you give in to a vocal minority what is stopping them from trying to change something else? Git means "an unpleasant or contemptible person". Surely that could be construed as offensive. What happens when / if a vocal minority decides Git and Github need to change their name? Should Github just change their name to prevent backlash?

Not to mention it appears to be mostly white people pushing this change, not even the alleged victims.


> A company like GitHub then has two main options

Nobody would have complained about GitHub doing nothing had GitHub done nothing.

Now we get to complain about their mindless actions, and possibly later on their spineless back-pedalling.


No, this is a terrifying precedent to set.

You are completely inverting democracy.

If 98% of people vote that something isn't offensive, and 2% vote that it is, and your takeaway from this is "the thing is offensive", then how can anything ever be determined to be not offensive?


You are not required to change the name of your main branch on existing repos.

If you really want to, you can use "master" as the name on your new repos. You simply have to manually type that in now.


So it’s not really a forced change. It’s a just soft change. Soft like the ocean is soft[1].

Glad we settled that one!

[1] https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheCulture


> Thus it is a useful reminder of the implicit bias that contributes to the lack of diversity in tech.

This is a useful reminder. It's a reminder that associative thinking can invert causal relationships and turn anything into a symbol for anything else. There is no rational limit to things that can be attacked this way. Someone can demand you to change the way you talk or dress, what you read or watch, how you do your job. The changes themselves can be anything and the only limit to their extent is your willingness to say no.

And by the way, don't ever forget who is enforcing this. This is not your coworker individually asking you do something differently to accommodate them. This is coming top-down from one of largest tech corporation in the world.


> who is enforcing this

Let's not exaggerate, they just changed the default for new repos, everyone is free to continue naming their branches "master" or "stable" or "trunk" or whatever they want.


You are right that nobody is being physically forced to make this change, but I think you vastly underestimate the power of propaganda and social pressure.

In today's hyper-socialized society there is not really much difference between "you are forced to make this change" and "make this change or else you will be socially outcast by all your peers".

Github is used by millions of developers all over the world. There is almost certainly at least one person in every western software company that regularly uses github. They have the power to broadcast messages into every software company in the western world, and right now this message is "make this change or you are racist".


> This is a useful reminder. It's a reminder that associative thinking can invert causal relationships and turn anything into a symbol for anything else. There is no rational limit to things that can be attacked this way.

I've never heard this stated so clearly and succinctly. Thanks for advancing the conversation.


Remember MS once told us 'Linux is Cancer'. Should we have believed them then? Now 'Microsoft loves Linux'. Which is it? I think which ever one aligns with their business interests at the time. That lens should used to view any change pushed by Redmond.


> So, next time you are annoyed that you have to fix a script or you accidentally type master when you needed to type main, please just take a deep breath, change the name, and remember to reflect upon whether you have are subconscious habits or biases that work against diversity in tech

Yeah, I totally need that, because there is not enough churn in tech. For instance, every release of Android since 4 has been identical in terms of UI, so I haven't had to learn any new subconscious habit in the use of a phone.

Web developers haven't had to learn new framework in over a decade; they could use this, too, not to mention C++ devs.


Hm, never thought of it like that.

I was caught off guard by the change when it was implemented, and was frankly quite annoyed. My suspicions were the same as the author's, that the reasons were likely insincere. But I never made the leap you did to (try and) assess my subconscious biases. Thank you for the insight!

On an other note, 'main' is fewer letters to capture the same idea ad therefore more efficient.


Subconscious bias is the modern day original sin.

It's creepily similar to the indoctrination technique of teaching people they are evil and can only be redeemed by following <belief system of choice>.


James Lindsey hit the nail on the head years ago comparing it to religion.

I think you’re optimistic in your formulation that there is redemption in that system. That or it’s a very useful paraphrase.


Not really, because subconscious bias is actually real.


So is Original Sin. Unless you believe than mankind is naturally depraved, in which case the state of the world makes perfect sense right now and cannot be changed.

To delve into this a little bit more - if mankind is _by nature_ depraved / evil, then there is nothing more to say or do. We are fighting against our nature, trying to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps out of a morass which we were born into. There is no point in trying, because we are broken. We can only hope that the principle of sufficient reason (a cause must be sufficient to explain its effects) is false and that our AGI children will be able to be born free from our defects and destroy / save us.

IFF mankind is not _by nature_ depraved, then either: * We are not currently depraved (and live in Eden [which seems ... unlikely]) * We are injured (in some way).

The doctrine of Original Sin, looked at from a purely natural perspective, is the declaration that "man is not by nature depraved, but he is suffering from an ancient injury". Which is much more hopeful than any of the other options.


By that definition of original sin, subconscious bias is just a specific kind of ancient injury. So subconscious bias isn't analogous to original sin, it is a form of original sin.

So either subconscious bias is religious and dogmatic like original sin, or subconscious bias is hopeful and not religious like original sin.


If it was significant and of consequence, my suspicion is it wouldn't stay subconscious for long.

Original Sin is just as real to the worldview of millions over centuries as Subconscious Bias is to others.


People need to fear something. In medieval ages it was heresy, 50 years ago it was communism, 20 years ago it was terrorism and today it's racism.


Black SWE here as well, highly disagree with this. If Microsoft/Github wanted to issue "a useful reminder of the implicit bias that contributes to the lack of diversity in tech", they could've founded an non-profit dedicated to training and job placement for BIPOC and underrepresented white women, they could've kept a continuous banner on their site that linked to relevant legislation, initiatives, causes, etc.

They changed the goddamned name of the master branch.

You're gonna have to explain to me how changing that name makes much more significant headway than any initative I enumerated above or adjacently related. There's a lot of heavy lifting being done by "a useful reminder".

I mean, you or I don't need reminders, that's what the article is about. As for the rest of the tech industry, its a crapshoot to even suggest even half would be moved by changing the name of the branch nevermind possibly not caring at all about the greater issue for whatever reason.

The FTA is about continuous action that requires investment, you're applauding cheap, low-effort PR moves. This country, and you and I, deserve better than what amounts to yet another TikTok affirmation, and it's difficult to discern tangible value for actual Black people that someone somewhere thought to themselves as they typed 'git checkout main', "Ah, yes, let me reconsider the web of power-relations I'm enmeshed in".

> So, next time you are annoyed that you have to fix a script or you accidentally type master when you needed to type main, please just take a deep breath, change the name, and remember to reflect upon whether you have are subconscious habits or biases that work against diversity in tech.

There is no amount of reflection that is ever going to substitute the actual presence of Black folk in the tech workforce, and thinking we'll over come this waiting on some kind of ethical consensus that eventually leads to a beneficial outcome is not reflected by history, see Civil Rights legislation.

Suggesting you're surreptisously altering behavior via minor language changes is just "spooky action at a distance" come alive. It lends the sense that someone is "effecting" outcomes without actually having to be accountable for actual outcomes occuring.

The "postmodernists" (in quotes cause it tells you nothing, more accurate would be to call them postmarxist) developed something resembling this (predominantly American) language theory, though much broader in scope, looking at documents from the 19th, 18th, and early 20th century when there was a small elite regulating knowledge, language, and education. (the official language academies of France, Spain, early communities of biologists, crimonologists etc). Those conditions simply aren't the case today precisely owing to mass communication.

All this that is accomplished by this (IMO as a former philosophy academic) complete bastardization of so-called "postmodern" language theory is a new out/game for standing institutions to play. The FTA points out how Microsoft is changing the name of master with their right hand, but supplying facial recognition software to police to identify protesters and mistake Black folk for Gorillas with their left hand.


The sad thing is it’s not corporate generosity coming up with these initiatives, they are pushing them because it’s a PR benefit.

Changing the name of something or issuing a press release costs absolutely nothing. When you actually dig into the issue you find corporations have no problem with racist practices if changing them would be expensive or challenging. Running background checks on employees and not disclosing what they will discriminate on, acting like meritocracy is anything more than a fiction, the incredible bias towards hiring from places their friends worked at, etc. And most of big tech are falling over themselves to take contracts from oppressive governments and institutions.

I have to laugh a little when Amazon or Microsoft takes a stand against racism but does business in China, possibly one of the most racist, and human rights abusing government on Earth. Turns out the only thing these companies won’t discriminate against is cold hard cash.


First off. Thank you for your comment. As a white European I need to hear these perspectives and I don't hear them enough.

Your comment reminded me of those email signatures that say something like, "Please think of the environment before you print this." Do they actually accomplish anything or do they just annoy people?

We need to weigh the real impact of actions against their potential annoyance. Because otherwise we're turning people off to the goals we're trying to achieve.

There was recently an environmental action in my city to stop traffic with a banner during a busy Sunday when lots of people were returning to the city. The activists did it because they wanted to get people to notice and care about the environment. The motorists were of course very annoyed and many of them posted on social media about this. Does annoying a bunch of motorists work towards saving the environment or just alienate people who could have been your allies?

There's a similar dynamic happening here.

A name was changed.

The change annoyed some people. Some people were not annoyed.

Nothing else happened.


Lol, "let's spread awareness of climate change by causing a bunch of cars to idle unnecessarily"

Society needs to take a stronger position against virtue signaling type behavior that has a facade of benevolence while being ineffective. Doing something ineffective for the right reasons is worse than doing nothing at all: it wastes productive energy and will to act on those reasons.


To your point though, it’s not just that some people are annoyed but that some people become aware of the absurdity of it all and attribute that to even more measured, less absurd critiques/initiatives and disassociate from even healthy aspects of a debate. Seeing the excesses drives a desire to disassociate.


A complete tangent, but when I interned at Toyota, they had a sign on the large inkjet plotter equating cost of abandoned prints per year to number of manufactured Highlanders.


I just want to quote because in my opinion your last sentence is right on & bears repeating: "The FTA points out how Microsoft is changing the name of master with their right hand, but supplying facial recognition software to police to identify protesters and mistake Black folk for Gorillas with their left hand."

On an individual level, I don't find it useful to get too worked up about name changes. Pronouns, names, whatever -- if someone's got a strong feeling I'll use what they want. You know why? (rhetorical HN you, not imbnwa in particular) Talk is cheap. Follow the money, though, the actual money, and supplying crappy facial recognition software that allows mass surveillance and leads to unsupportable arrest of innocent people is $$$. Selling a shitty "AI" program to screen resumes that uses a model that tells you a name like Jared is the best predictor for getting hired is $$$$. Perpetuating inequality through crappy AI/ML design is $$$$, and then noting that it exists and charging to "fix" it is $$$$$! As the beauty and pharma industries know, the best way to make money is to introduce a problem and then introduce a "cure" six months later.


Microsoft does not sell it's AI technology to police. So... let's avoid accusing them of things they aren't doing.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/06/11/microso...


I wonder if they won't sell their facial recognition technology to vendors that serve the police. Does this policy have teeth or is it just going to induce reseller middle men to sell it police for them?


You seem to be suggesting that this is all Microsoft has done to help underrepresented groups and is their main focus in the push for inclusion, but that isn’t the case: https://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2020/06/23/addressing-racia...


Amazing comment, thank you


> where "white" means anyone who isn't black

Whoa, whoa, wait a minute there. I have mexican-indigenous blood running through my veins and coloring my skin and all I can say is this: no matter how much you've suffered, you don't get to minimize other people‘s suffering.


> Thus it is a useful reminder of the implicit bias that contributes to the lack of diversity in tech.

Implicit bias is made to be the boogeyman when it reality, it is probably a very a small fraction of the cause of "lack of diversity" in tech, if at all. Anyone who has attended computer science courses in college anytime would know the number of black students were little to none. It has always been a pipeline problem from the education side of things. To say that typing a word that so happens to have a relation to slavery caused a "lack of diversity" in tech is the biggest farce in this industry and it is extremely sad to see this line parroted by many in the industry. I expect to be heavily downvoted and even flagged for "wrongthink" but I think it tells a lot about how irrational and unhealthy our state of discourse is in today's world.


> remember to reflect upon whether you have are subconscious habits or biases that work against diversity in tech.

I find statements like these to be well meaning straight from the pulpit of a culture that finds cancellation or edits prefferable to new and better.

It's decline. Regression. It's looking at the present solely through the eyes of the past and a refusal to look an inch forward.

A word won't change the state. It's meta. The nub of the issue is that a black kid who might have an interest in computing has access to one, does he have that as a choice, and can anyone help or nudge him towards an academic pursuit in computing. That's where the work is.


> What's powerful about this name change is that it pushes us to alter a habit

Yes, a habit, but nothing that has to do with race or racism. So, is it a habit worth, or needing of being broken? What was bad about this habit? How does using it in a non-racial context aide in perpetuating racism?

Masters degree. Master recording. Master Chief. Master at Arms. Like Git, none of these things has anything to do with a master/slave paradigm, or even have a "slave" counterpart. There is no slave in git...there is clone and branch. There is no slave in audio recordings, you make a duplicate or copy of the master. Language is complex and nuanced. Not every word used in a race context has to do with the same word being used in another context, unless we make it so. There's nothing consciously or subconsciously racist about saying you have a masters degree, assuming you do. There are many definitions for master[1]. Only one of them deals with the disgusting practice of a person being owned as property, ie slavery, and it's not even the top definition. Should we just get rid of all of the other definitions of the word entirely because one of the definitions has some very disgusting history in the US, and historically the world at large going back thousands of years?

For the record, I'm white. My ancestors were serfs, ie slaves, in Europe. Unless you're of a royal bloodline that wasn't conquered by another royal bloodline, chances are everyone has a connection to relatives that were enslaved by someone, somewhere, at some point in time[2].

Now, I can agree we should get rid of master-slavery terminology. That is blatant, imho. But "master" on its own when there is no "slave" component unless we make one up in our heads? If we follow that logic, there are a LOT of words that we should get rid of, including the word "black" to describe a color. There are a lot of racists who also use that word in a negative context to spread their racism. Where will it end? Where is the line? How much thinner should we make the dictionary so that no one is offended or subconsciously reminded of something that didn't actually have to do with the subject at hand? And after we do that, will there be newly found things that people will get offended at? Count on it.

[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/master

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_slavery


> What's powerful about this name change is that it pushes us to alter a habit, in my case one embedded deeply in my fingers, something that I do every day without realizing that I'm doing it

This is the entire point, this sentence right here.


The sentence right there is what a lot of people find inane and absurd, though, too. It’s often less a case of people not “getting” what the nominal intention is; it’s that people do get the nominal intention and think it’s an idiotic waste of time that’s being done to satisfy a pretty ignorant and narrow-minded view of language and history. It also has no limiting principle to what gets targeted except the energy of ninnies. It’s worth considering now where your line of tolerance is going to be - the point where you think, “okay, this has become too ridiculous, even for me”. Is it when I suggest removing “chain” from blockchain because it evokes slavery? Point being that many people see this issue with GitHub as having crossed the line of absurdity already.


Folks, we have the unsung hero of the thread right here. Remove the chain from blockchain!


But why is it important to change that habit, if it has no beneficial impact?


To the avid anti-racist, the racism being there is a dogmatic fact.

You cannot argue using reason that there is no racism to fight, because he has decided that there is, there must be.

So to the anti-racist whatever action they do is perceived meaningful, even when completely absurd.

It’s clearly a new kind of piety, a new kind if religion.


But you could do that by changing any word. Renaming 'rebase' would be equally effective.

So if that's the point, then it shows that we shouldn't be doing this.


Because every time I have to stop to write main instead of master, I become less racist?


I appreciate learning your perspective. Frankly, though, the argument you make for accepting and embracing such things to me reinforces the notion that the BLM movement feels like forced cultural revolution. Though you are not coming across with any such tone, the idea seems like "shut up, and take your medicine".


All cultural revolution is forced for those who do not benefit directly from it.

Nothing worth fighting for comes easy. Women's rights, racial rights, gay rights... It all had to be forced to happen, because it's much easier to maintain an unfair status quo than it is to convince millions of people that perhaps their world view is wrong and holding others back.


The difference between the current social justice movements and the previous civil rights movements is that they're more about changing culture than policy. Voting rights, marriage rights, desegregation, abortion rights, these are things with concrete laws that could be changed.

If anything, the protests should have been about police reform. Change qualified immunity, change police training to avoid inadvertent deaths. That's something that a lot of people could support because more than just Black people get harassed by cops.

Instead, everything from master bedrooms, to math, to western civilization itself has been called "white supremacist", "racist", and "problematic". It's diluted the ability for these movements to make real substantive progress and is creating growing animosity towards themselves.


But changing this word was easy and doesn't really benefit anyone. A corporation gets to pat themselves on the back and US police continue to brutalize people just the same. Nothing really changed


But that's irrelevant to what the person I was replying to said. They made a statement indicting BLM not githubs actions.


> All cultural revolution is forced for those who do not benefit directly from it.

How would you say the American Civil War fits into this picture? Most of the people fighting (and dying to fight) slavery were not slaves. Or when the British made slavery illegal in their Empire? Why choose that, in your model?


> Nothing worth fighting for comes easy.

Thank you for your service.


Fighting for people's rights does not put an unnecessary burden on other people. Rosa Parks wanted to allow black people to ride anywhere on the bus, not make white people stand up and give them their places instead.


I think we're in agreement? I'm saying that regardless, fights for equity are still a fight and therefore forced.

I'd also argue they do put a burden on people, though not an unnecessary one, to reevaluate their thinking and world view. Rosa Parks didn't force a white person to give up their seat for her. But she, and others, did force white people to rethink what they took for granted as the status quo.


For the people who were always able to sit in the front of the bus, having black people sitting there was a new burden, and meant they had to stand more often.


Certainly, but it was a burden in that it took away an unnecessary privilege. The point of the boycotts was ultimately not to put an extra burden on others to remind them of their privilege.

The point of the original comment was that renaming master to main served as a reminder for people. But movements in the past that you were referencing never served a goal of solely putting burdens on other people.


This is a matter of perspective. Creating awareness is usually the first step to changing things. Your take here only really works of you believe that burdening people with awareness is the end goal.

To use the standing example, it's like saying that Parks's goal was just to get arrested to burden people with the knowledge of inequality.

If you accept that racial privilege exists, and that it's causes are correctable, even in part, then raising awareness of those helps. This is doubly true if you think that stone of the causes are social cognitive biases, where awareness and mindfulness directly address the causes.


I agree. Changing 'master' to 'main' is going to help a lot of people.


I was on the fence before I read this comment. I don't mind changing insignificant things if it makes people feel better.

Now I'm firmly in the camp that this wasn't worth it. Even having this remotely associated with the real important change that BLM is pushing for really dilutes the message. We're talking about a name and not the real injustices that some people face everyday.


> So, next time you are annoyed that you have to fix a script or you accidentally type master when you needed to type main, please just take a deep breath, change the name, and remember to reflect upon whether you have are subconscious habits or biases that work against diversity in tech.

Could you please give me specific examples of what biases I, a software developer, may have? I like to think that I have always treated people with respect, judging them only by the character of their work and interactions with me, as opposed to stereotypes based on characteristics outside of their control. Perhaps I am wrong, but reflecting did not help maybe because I have had found no luck finding a thorough, rational source to educate myself on these issues that doesn't just echo meaningless politically or emotionally loaded statements. I am thus genuinely interested to hear from someone like you who is directly affected by these issues.


I generally agree with your statement. I am also an African American but my first reaction to the change was very positive. On a more technical and pedantic level, having a "master" branch really doesn't make any sense without slave branches. So in this context a "main" branch eliminates any negative historical connotations and has a more precise meaning. To me, this another case of "that's how its always been" and some people react very negatively towards sudden change.

Related to this conversation: years ago Nikon removed the terminology of Master and Slave in their flash units in favor of Commander and Remote.

https://petapixel.com/2020/07/08/nikon-says-it-stopped-using...

To the author: We have to start somewhere and it is a sign of progress (no matter how small) that finally there is some awareness around this issue and now something is being done about it


> On a more technical and pedantic level, having a "master" branch really doesn't make any sense without slave branches.

The reason master branches are called master branches is as an analogy to a music/record "master", which means "the original, the truest, the canonical".

(In an analog world where every copy necessitated deterioration, there was a need to say "this is THE version").

So git master branches meant the same thing: canonical. That's why the name "makes sense" even though there are no slave branches.

Just adding this here out of a sense of duty for historical accuracy, and not commenting on the name change itself.


Since we are talking about branches, wouldn't a "root" branch makes more sense?


It doesn't really matter which makes "more sense." You could call it the canon branch, the root branch, the trunk branch, the main branch, the master branch, whatever.

The point is that the word master, in this context, has a different etymology that the word master in say, a database. Now, that might not matter: if you care about changing the name of the branch you probably care about the way the name makes people feel, not the etymology of the word, and perhaps that's a good argument (personally I don't know and don't really care). Nonetheless, the etymology of the word is a factual statement, so I was correcting a poster who was assuming it was an analogy to a different context.


words do matter.. if they didn't, none of us on the thread would be talking about it. You can't splain away how a person from a different group feels or why. What is nice about other SCM systems like Mercurial, Fossil, CVS, SVN.. or basically anything not Git.. is that the language is clear and not offensive to anyone. It really is that simple


No, because root has already an established, clear meaning in Unix world.


I wanted ‘trunk’, like SVN. That ought to be safe, since there's no one speaking for the trees.


I look forward to the tech sector getting into fights with The Lorax, or more seriously, the Sierra Club.


The Lorax would like a word with you.


Coming from Mercurial which calls its default branch.. well "default" to Git which calls its default branch "master" was very jarring for me. So yeah, I definitly noticed


"master" has been in use for decades in the recording industry, the "record master" does not, and never did, have any slaves. This terminology was incorporated into software, back in the CD-ROM days, with their "gold master" from which copies would be produced.

I don't have a horse in this race, I just wanted to point out that the language is far more flexible than some people seem to think.


Christ just then verb “mastering”. I work in Hollywood at a big studio and mastering is incredibly common term for the process of ordering and creating digital masters. That is, the uncompressed “official” version of our movies that are used to for archiving and for creating other downstream versions of lesser quality.

I’m actually wondering if I should create a tongue-in-cheek movement to renaming this term across studios. It’s incredibly ingrained.


> the "record master" does not, and never did, have any slaves.

Are you sure about this? It seems the music industry is going through a parallel exercise. I'm not familiar with music industry terminology really, but it seems those who are disagree with you:

"Following that thread, [Pharrell] Williams suggested that the company “get ahead of this and do the right thing. Start with the terminology — like ‘master’ and ‘slave.’ Master being the main recording and the slave being all the copies made.”

...

Williams recalls hearing the loaded words “master” and “slave” paired in such a manner as a teen, when learning the ropes of the music business from R&B star Teddy Riley in Virginia Beach, Va. As his career took off, Williams spotted the terms woven into many of his contracts."

https://variety.com/2020/music/news/pharrell-williams-master...


I cannot speak to what might've been contained in the contracts, but I am fairly confident that master/slave terminology wasn't used by the recording industry, just "master" and "mastering".

Google Ngrams/Book Search seems to validate this, too. I could find no results related to the recording industry that used master/slave terminology.

I'd personally be leery of accepting sources post-2020, due to the confidence with which people can recall false memories.


Okay, here's a book called "All You Need to Know About the Music Business" first published in 1991 by a recording industry lawyer (a guy who would have been involved in writing those contracts). It contains the passage:

"The word master has two meanings: 1. The original recording made in the studio is called a master, because it is the master (meaning controlling entity) from which all copies are made (the machines making the copies are called slaves—master/slave; get it?). ... 2. The word master also means a recording of one particular song. Thus, you might say an album has “ten masters” (meaning ten selections) on it. These individual recordings are also called cuts, because of the historical fact that each selection was “cut” into vinyl."

You originally said:

"This terminology was incorporated into software, back in the CD-ROM days, with their "gold master" from which copies would be produced."

So it appears you are referencing the first usage of the term master, which this industry insider explained in 1991 (a pre 2020 source) had a direct master/slave relationship to the copies, and the terminology was used knowingly to refer to a more conventional understanding of a master/slave relationship between humans.

This master/slave relationship between recordings seems to have been used in other contexts in the industry, showing its usage was widespread.

Here is a retailer explaining in 1998 what a "slave" reel is (in contrast to a "master" reel): "Historically refers to a reel of multitrack tape upon which there is a submix of the tracks from a “master reel” to record overdubs against. The purpose of slave reels is to more easily provide additional workspace (tracks) for creating multitrack recordings." https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/slave-reel/

Here is a machine from 2002 called a digital loop bin that duplicates "slave" tapes from a master: https://web.archive.org/web/20030318000601/http://www.optica...

Here is an account from 2000 by someone who worked with the analog version of these machines in the 70s. He uses the terms "master" and "slave" throughout: https://web.archive.org/web/20101208122537/http://www.8track...

Here is a post in a large community of audio enthusiasts about a recording from the 80s labeled as a "safety" for a master and slave reel. If you search on this site you can see the words master and slave used in various contexts from master/slave recordings to master/slave sync relationships: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/...

So to summarize we have:

- Accounts by several prominent artists of encountering master/slave terminology referring to recordings, both in common parlance and in contracts.

- A popular book (10 editions, 500k copies sold) written by a prominent recording industry lawyer, who would have been involved in writing contracts, that explicitly defines master recordings with respect to slave recordings. He even gives a wink/nudge to the common understanding of a master/slave relationship in human society.

- Various technologies that through the decades were advertised as having the capability to make "slave" recordings from "master" recordings.

- A community of audio enthusiasts who have incorporated master/slave terminology into their parlance.

Given this evidence, can you please explain to me whether you are still "fairly confident that master/slave terminology wasn't used by the recording industry"? What would it take to convince you otherwise?


Fair enough. I hadn't found any of these examples. I am not playing at being willfully blind; the avenues I used to research the terms did not turn up any of these results.


What's next? Are we going to rename master's as an academic degree? Are we going to start using words other than master or grandmaster to refer to experienced martial artists? What about chess?


> Are we going to rename master's as an academic degree?

Good Idea! I'm going to start a gofundme for a petition on change.org right now.

> What about chess?

Don't get me started about all the sexism (only one female character), classism (royalty vs pawn) and racism (black vs white) as well as animal abuse (war horses) in chess...


Does having a master bedroom make sense without having “slave rooms”?


No it doesn't.. It is a room where the master of the house would sleep. Therefore it has to be the largest and more fully featured, etc



This is insane.


> For context, I'm an African American

> My immediate reaction was, "this change is by white people for white people," where "white" means anyone who isn't black.

> My next reaction was, "they may be changing the name for the wrong reasons, but the change is brilliant."

This is exactly what I would expect from a person with a deeply ingrained racial identity.

> So, next time you are annoyed that you have to fix a script or you accidentally type master when you needed to type main, please just take a deep breath, change the name, and remember to reflect upon whether you have are subconscious habits or biases that work against diversity in tech.

Well, I have reflected upon that, and I came to conclusion that it is people who base their identity on 19th century pseudo-science on kool-aid who are wrong, not me.


That's exactly how I see it too. These performative bits of nonsense are how we as a society build consensus, in this case something like "racial injustice is real, it matters, and it needs to be addressed with action".

And by all getting together and renaming our white/blacklists and master branches and slave devices, we're all agreeing that this is important.

And.... yeah, it's also a way to find the people who aren't willing to mildly inconvenience themselves in this pursuit. Yes, cranky posters like the OP are ALSO signaling with their refusal to go along. What they're telling the rest of us is that this racism stuff isn't something they want to care about.

And that's why we do this stuff.


So it’s a purity test? Many people are just wired to reject this conformist line of thinking from the very starting point. You’re saying, let’s all do this pointless activity so we can see who has an attitude problem. It reminds me so much of how children are treated in schools or churches, and I really chafe at it. I couldn’t care less about your nominal cause or sense of self-righteousness, it’s the attitude and behavior of you imagining your fellow citizens are children that strikes me as offensive and drives resistance. I don’t doubt your good intentions but this way of thinking about solutions (your tools) is rather poisonous and places the banner under which you use them in pretty bad company.


> I don’t doubt your good intentions

I'm not sure this benefit of the doubt is merited. A lot of people participate in these shenanigans either performatively or because it gives them license to attack and feel good about it. Anecdotally, I've encountered far more people for whom the motivation is one of these two than I have for whom it's pure good intentions. Those few with genuine good intentions are usually also engaging in other good acts that actually matter and for which they don't get social credit for.

“The surest way to work up a crusade in favor of some good cause is to promise people they will have a chance of maltreating someone. To be able to destroy with good conscience, to be able to behave badly and call your bad behavior 'righteous indignation' — this is the height of psychological luxury, the most delicious of moral treats.”

― Aldous Huxley, Crome Yellow


> So it’s a purity test?

Deliberately? No, of course not. But it's a good way to tell where people stand, nonetheless. And I can tell right now that you personally feel much more strongly about opposing woke excesses than you do about opposing genuine racial injustice. So the performative nonsense has done its job.


Your conclusion is not sound.

To you, it is a "genuine racial injustice".

To others, it is simply nothing of the sort.

Said another way, I also feel much more strongly about opposing woke excesses than I do about opposing genuine racial injustice--expressly since I very much support opposing racial injustices and do not find the master/main debate as a genuine racial injustice.


> But it's a good way to tell where people stand, nonetheless.

That's exactly what a purity test is.


What do you mean "Deliberately, no"? It is intentionally so, just as you had no trouble describing and then eagerly applying with exactly the kind of wrong-headed witch-hunting logic these exercises predictably inspire. Make no mistake - the problem and criticism here isn't with a cause that's bigger than you and noble.


This is definitely a helpful perspective, and I'll try to adopt your suggested practice myself.

I don't know that I'd call the change "brilliant", though – for anyone not already seeking to actively reflect on their own subconscious biases, this change will probably feel less like a welcome gentle reminder and more like someone trying to control how they think (which nobody likes).


I'm African American & had the same reaction.

At the time, the master->main switch felt completely pointless.

But I came to appreciate the courage needed to actually commit. It's a signal that people do care.

Issue is, most folk have no idea on how to meaningfully contribute towards a lack of representation.


How exactly did it break your workflow? The change only affects new repositories and doesn't prevent you from creating a master branch on those new repositories. You're even able to set any branch name as default on a user, org, or enterprise level.


I don't remember exactly how it broke the first time, but the cognitive overhead shows up in various places. E.g., start a new project, create a branch, then merge back to master... oh wait, it's main now? But then I'm back to an old project, or another person's project, so let me look up what name I need to be using, etc...


I had a bunch of scripts that would automatically clone repos and ensure that they were pointing at the correct branch; they started breaking when the branch names started changing.


Lolz! GitHub did not change any branch names - they only changed the default help text file that suggested a command you can use to initialize a new repository.. that's it...

If someones existing repo changed their own branch name then it was the decision of that repo owner.. not related to anything GitHub did - technically if you see what's happening, Github barely did anything for this change..


A bunch of repos followed suit. It's related to what GitHub did because GH led by example.

I don't really care; I fixed the scripts. The question was if there was any impact, and not if the impact was onerous.


Agree, it's a pain.. but, then it's more of a responsibility of those repos and how they communicate to their users and your paying attention to it's changes.. I mean tomorrow they'll probably break more of your stuff by their changes not related to this change at all... Says more about their handling of their product changes than anything else..


Assuming branch names don't change on a package you don't control seems like the real issue?


Until recently the base branch of git repositories was fairly stable. Coming from a long history of revision control systems where the base branch was incredibly stable.


It didn't break 99.9% of workflows and for the remaining 0.1% they have to write an or statement. Not that big of a deal. The only constant is change.


> So, next time you are annoyed that you have to fix a script or you accidentally type master when you needed to type main, please just take a deep breath, change the name, and remember to reflect upon whether you have are subconscious habits or biases that work against diversity in tech.

Which sounds okay(1) if all I'm working on is a simple document. If I'm in the larger context of making a change in code because it's breaking something somewhere else, the cognitive overhead of switching gears from "technical mode" to "political mode" to "what the heck was I really doing again?" is costly.

(1) I had "great" but downgraded it to "okay" because literally no one is offended by this -- it's virtue signaling to make rich people feel like they look better.


This is a thoughtful and patronising post. Since you give advice frelly, let me offer one back: every time you type the word 'slave', take a deep breath and consider the etymology of that word.


currently, i have mix of projects some with main some with master as default branch.

After, I short while i am getting used to main. No issues, just occasionally type main instead of master and vice versa.

Further, i think i like main better. The name fits a bit better the purpose (in my flows) and it also shorter ;)


20 years ago, Now and then someone would make a fuss about hard drives.

Specifically master and slave drives.

Wasn’t a common complaint and was treated with eye rolls. Maybe others had different experiences.

Last few years there has been a dramatic change in fringe groups becoming the masters of speech.

At least for those outside the Bay Area.


This is interesting. I'm white.

The word master doesn't occupy this space in my head and never has. I've associated this term primarily with teachers from a very early age. There's obviously the master-slave terminology in tech, but that really doesn't map to slavery in my head. This is probably because I'm from the British Isles which has a very different history in terms of slavery.

For me, I felt this change was really about the impact this term has for people who have been impacted by slavery having to continue to use these terms, which I thought many must felt comes across as, at best, insensitive.

Hence, I felt the cost of doing this seems reasonable. I mean, if we used the term holocaust for wiping a hard drive at some point people would probably have said - "err, yeah, no that's just a bad idea", because it would be offensive.


Do you really need to type master/main frequently?


Consider the documentation alone.

A google search on "git master" shows 446,000 results -- now to be revised?

A google search without the quotes shows 171,000,000 results.

This is not to mention all of the company-internal documentation, correspondence, etc. which now becomes subject to pressure/demand for revision.


If you're switching branches frequently, or doing a lot of merging you might


I did change a name because of this change, but the name I changed was Github. Fuck them and their stupid virtue signalling, because no matter how you cut it, that's really all it is.


main is less typing, big win for me!


[flagged]


Not to mention that slave owners were probably more often referred to as owners, not masters.

When will Microsoft stop using deeply racist language such as e.g. owner and ownership?

Mentioned together with your example it is clear that this is lip service to hide their real racism and antisemitism.

/sarcasm

I wish we could stop this nonsense now :-/


Small correction but the holocaust wasn't the biggest genocide in human history.

Obviously this isn't a competition nor it should be.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_genocides_by_death_tol...


Thanks, I should have done a better homework.

I guess it's worth mentioning as well that the Holocaust is still extremely recent in terms of history and therefore quite surprising how people who put so much emphasis on language are so ignorant to this event.


Yes!


Holocaust has its own impact. Swastika is pretty much a taboo in west, despite it being an ancient symbol and has major significance in Hinduism and Buddhism.


"Hitler Never Used Swastika: Evangelical Defamation Of Hindu Symbol" - https://swarajyamag.com/ideas/swastika-is-hindu-and-the-hook...


So you admit that you were not offended by it but would still like it to change and would also impose said change to everyone for a reason that has yet to be identified.


Please do not post in the flamewar style to HN. We're trying for something different here.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


This! Virtue signaling is worthless, but it does keep ideas fresh in people's minds when you experience it and that isn't worthless.


Self censorship is never healthy [1]. A default, widely accepted value for the main branch of git repo had immense value from a usability perspective. Creating a confusing system and calling it beneficial because it becomes a reminder about bias as it interrupts your workflow? That's some post modern intersectional bullshit right there.

I really don't care about the name change in this case, the OP was mistaken, master record also has roots in a master slave[tape] relationship. So please, change it, just do it upstream and leave me the fuck out of your culture war.

[1] https://youtu.be/5fHvjM_4F6w


It's extremely disappointing to see that the primary reaction on HN to this terminology chain is to bemoan the minor inconvenience of having to type fewer letters or run a replace-all on your scripts. Oh god, the horror. It's almost like people on HN have never used a text replacement tool before.

A "master recording" is the immutable "official recording" and is the source from which all copies are made, but the "master" in this term comes from the historical use of a "mastering lathe" to create vinyl records. It's quite clear that a "master branch" in git is not like a master recording, because a master branch isn't immutable and moreover is the branch that changes get merged into.

Given that the "master" in historic VCS programs (like Bitkeeper) is explicitly based on master/slave terminology, that git deliberately picked the term to maintain continuity of context with other VCS systems, and that "master" is ultimately a inaccurate description of what a "master branch" actually is in the context of git, it absolutely should be changed to something less inflammatory, like "main" or "working" or "local."


> Given that the "master" in historic VCS programs (like Bitkeeper) is explicitly based on master/slave terminology, that git deliberately picked the term to maintain continuity of context with other VCS systems...

While some VCS programs may have used master/slave (I think maybe CVS did?), BitKeeper did not.

The (likely) basis for the belief that BitKeeper use master/slave and git followed them, the GNOME mailing list post[0] that reignited this discussion in 2019, was retracted the next year[1].

I wrote a summary of the history[2] for Git Rev News, the git developers newsletter. In short, the usage didn't come from BitKeeper, and was intended to mean 'master copy'.

After the article was published, Aaron Kushner from BitKeeper reached out and gave me some more history on the usage of 'slave repository' in that one particular spot in BitKeeper[3]: it was a presentation for a client that was already using master/slave terminology and so the same terms were used in the presentation.

0: https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2019-May/...

1: https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2020-June...

2: https://git.github.io/rev_news/2020/07/29/edition-65/

3: https://twitter.com/AndrewArdill/status/1350537333292949505


I vehemently disagree. Such virtue signaling is okay when one is on empirically high moral ground. If the lesson were “stay away from snakes” or “stop, drop, and roll”, there would be no possible debate over those topics and we might all agree that a frequent refresher would be welcome.

However, there remains considerable discussion over oppression, race, and politics. For you to shoehorn in your personal viewpoint here immediately ends the discussion and implies that your side is right, when that may not be the case.

Think about if we changed the names literally to “n-word” and “white whip”. You’d be just as disgusted as I am for the opposing side to claim empirical moral high ground and to force you to accept something that you don’t find to be a settled debate.


I think you mean "objectively", not "empirically". Your word choice is problematic as it invokes the authority and propriety of empire as the most rational form of governance. While we're arguing for linguistic purity tests, let's maintain some principled consistency here.


This.

These changes to remove subconscious bias from our language are necessary. They are microaggressions which the average user doesn't even realize exist- but which do harms to some individuals in our society. This may be a minority group within our society- even a very small fraction of a percent- but removing biases which are perceived as harmful is one way that we as an organization demonstrate that we are being actively inclusive to all, instead of falling back on habits developed to favor, or carrying the embedded biases of, one social or cultural group.

I look at it like ADA requirements for language. If you have a curb a wheelchair user can't climb, that's a harm to that individual- and so we require actions, by law, to ensure that wheelchair users are accommodated in our society. 30 years ago the similar complaints were made against ADA ramps, handicap-accessible restrooms, etc.- that they weren't really necessary because the minority who were being hurt by their absence were such a minority, and weren't really the target served population of the organization, etc. That was anti-inclusivity- and so we passed the ADA and support accessibility for all in our organizations- and nobody these days chafes at it at all, for the most part.

Removing harms from how organizations execute their business operations is part of inclusivity. It's not cargo culting, it's not engaging in a self-pleasuring but pointless behavior, it's not a meaningless act that carries no value- it's ensuring that our organization does as little harm to folks as possible as we move forward doing business in the world.


I'm not entirely sure I can disagree with you more.

> Removing harms from how organizations execute their business operations is part of inclusivity. It's not cargo culting, it's not engaging in a self-pleasuring but pointless behavior, it's not a meaningless act that carries no value- it's ensuring that our organization does as little harm to folks as possible as we move forward doing business in the world.

Serious question - What harm are you removing here?

Let me ask again - Who is being harmed, how is this helping them?

Because to me... I see a giant company (MSFT) using political theatre as advertising.

Worse, as a developer in one of the areas that's actually fairly racially diverse (South Atlanta) I sure as fuck don't see any of my black co-workers doing anything other than roll their eyes at this.

This was a change engineered by white people, to appeal to white people's current sense of morality, so that a large company can continue its practices of fucking minority and non-white folks over, and yet here you are congratulating them on wasting billions of dollars on it.


Your entire theory ascribes a mysticism to language that is not evidence based at all.

Changes to language like removing the term master are absurd and performative. You have jumped onto a movement that is operating like a religion. Telltale signs are capitalization of certain words that aren't normally capitalized, and making a big deal about certain interchangeable words.

Growing up as an evangelical Christian I was not allowed to say the word lucky and was insisted that I would say blessed instead. The people who were a minority of my church that made a big deal this did so for personal gain in the social hierarchy.

You can sit here and moan all day long about stupid theories that came out of disciplines in universities where the practitioners are universally illiterate in statistics.

At the end of the day the entire theory is rooted around essays and very very shaky implicit bias science where the test which I have taken several times are not reproducible for a single individual. Depending on the day I take an implicit bias test I am either anti-black or anti-white.

Naturally there's no implicit bias test that has other races featured because these all came from US universities who have a myopic view on race driven by politics and title 9.

Enjoy your silly religion. The rest of us are going to set about building a better world for everyone while you ride along on the technical progress and its fruits.


I would not call it mystical, but rather social. The term "master branch" was established by convention, not science. Now a group of people has proposed a different convention that they like better, and it's gained traction. Conventions often change over time, and rarely require science to justify it.

Interestingly, this new convention is superior to the old in several ways, including one you might call scientific: it has two less keystrokes! I can only assume Jef Raskin would heartily approve.


"Blessed" was the new convention the evangelical tyrants at my church "proposed" to use instead of "lucky".

They were totally cool about it, and I was left to my own free will to choose which word to use..... oh wait, no, they were aggressive and coercive, because that's what moralistic narcissists do. Shamers are gonna shame.

It's funny how few people who are actually substantive contributors are vocal about this. It's all these peripheral people with minimal accomplishments, just like at my church. The bus driver was the biggest moralistic enforcer I've ever seen.


> Now a group of people has proposed a different convention that they like better,

Umm, no, they were pressured into it. That also means the reason they're doing it is pressure, not liking it.

> and it's gained traction.

It didn't "gain" traction. It was forced on people by various means of pressure.


Let's look at your terms:

"They": who do you mean by this? Do you mean every group of engineers who has made the change? Just GitHub? The Software Conservancy?

"Not liking it": I suppose you have evidence that these changes were generally unsatisfactory to the people making them? And not, say, you projecting your own anger upon them?

"Pressure": You seem by this to posit that conventions ought not to act by pressure at all, which is a really weird way to imagine how the world works. How could a convention, or a change in convention, _not_ generate pressure?

"Forcing": You seem determined to strip engineers of their own agency, but this is silly. Only defaults have changed. Master branches still abound, and renaming within Git itself remains a relatively trivial matter.

"Gain traction": You have not been paying attention if you think this terminology shift was a sudden change made all at once from the top down. I've been in debates about master/slave terminology in CS (and specifically Git) going back to Ferguson, maybe even longer.

I get that you like your old branch name and you don't want the hassle of changing it, but all this talk of "pressure" and "forcing" by nameless adversaries is quite unnecessary to get that point across.


It was absolutely a top-down change that was propelled by a bunch of people subjected to a moral panic while simultaneously isolated and not able to converse with others. The company I was at at the time in Colorado naturally had very few black software engineers.

Because I happen to be friends with the ones we did have since we were all on the team together I happened to know that they all thought it was stupid. Every single black engineer at my former company thought the master slave terminology was not a big deal and resented the performative nature of people like yourself who clamored to get it changed.

They found it very embarrassing, and patronizing.

Not that anyone in the leadership ranks cared what they thought. They were too busy performing for the masses clamoring to capitalize on a social media trend and the moral panic propelled by activist idiots.

Not a single one of these people would ever think for a second to invite a person to dinner who had been convicted a few years earlier of holding a pregnant woman at gunpoint after invading her home. Especially if that person was white.

Suddenly they all cared in a change that happened overnight. That's great that you were pushing for these things with Ferguson but I grew up in a mostly black community and I dealt with this my whole life rather than jumping on a bandwagon like you did.

The prescribed philosophies and practices don't help the situation they just make it worse and you would know that if you had grown up in a black community like I did. You didn't so you don't.

I know a hell of a lot more about race relations than people of any color who grew up in predominantly white suburbs. I got the s** kicked out of me in the early '90s in middle school after they did a screening of Malcolm x. I actually loved the film but several boys decided it was a great occasion to beat the s** out of a white kid in response to the racism they witnessed in the film. Those are the kinds of experiences that teach you that often times you are further dividing people rather than uniting them. None of you wokies get that.

White racism created a lot of cultural conditions in places like Ferguson. Those cultural conditions continue to perpetuate themselves in the absence of the racism that first spun them into existence. Your ideology ignores this and acts like the forces that spun those things into existence are still prominent. In a nation that elected a black president. It's nonsensical and opinion polls show this.

A bunch of activist wanted more money and more prestige at the universities that employ them and they're getting it. Congratulations your side one and the country is worse off because of it.


This post actually helped me process something that happened 20 years ago. I said to a fellow student at uni "good luck". He snapped back severely "I don't believe in in luck, I believe in God!" and I just stood slack jawed unsure what I had said to offend. Bizarre.


Yes, these people make their entire religion their identity, and react accordingly.

The recent batch of radical identitarians on the left make their ideology into a religion, make that religion into their identity, and react accordingly.

They are slightly different approaches that reach the same end: Intolerant, miserable human beings who can't help but contaminate every social interaction with intolerance.


>They are microaggressions which the average user doesn't even realize exist- but which do harms to some individuals in our society.

Just so I'm understanding this point of view correctly, every time I or any other dev types git checkout master, a micro-aggression is taking place and someone somewhere is indirectly suffering?

I just can't take that line of thinking seriously, I'm sorry.


We are eliminating gender from our colloquial terms for the same reason. Serviceperson instead of serviceman; mail carrier instead of mailman, police officer instead of policeman. This is the same thing- just eliminating a term which injuries a different minority along a different identity axis.


I think they mean that if a black person types in `git checkout master` they are inflicting microaggression against themselves... I personally think this is mental gymnastics on par with homeopathy[1].

On the other hand, I guess the "habit" thing might hold _some_ credibility, but it's not probably not going to be as effective as they think. They say it roughly takes 40 days to make a habit, so in the most optimistically woke scenario, this person will be hyper aware about the branch name for about 40 days, after that they'll stop noticing it[2].

[1]: I can also never tell if these people are trolling or genuine.

[2]: I'm not really an expert on habits, so maybe my analysis makes no sense.


Imagine that your great-great grandparents were enslaved. Your grandparents weren't allowed to go to white schools. Your dad was harrassed by the cops as a young man in the deep south. You worry that your colleagues may think you wouldn't have been seriously considered for this job if you weren't an underrepresented minority.

During onboarding you learn "git checkout master". You type those words everyday for six months, never thinking twice. Your confidence has grown over those months and you begin to feel like you belong here. But there's one coworker, Brad, who just doesn't seem to like you. Or maybe that's just his personality. But Brad just never seems to have anything nice to say. His code reviews are abrasive, though they don't rise to the level of bullying. Maybe that's just how he is.

This morning Brad picked apart a commit you were particularly proud of. Code you thought was rather clever, he tore into as overcomplicated and premature optimization. Okay, fine maybe he was right, but he didn't have to be rude about it. You feel like maybe Brad just doesn't like you. What did you ever do to him? Is it because you're black? No, you don't have any real evidence for that. "But...maybe?" a small voice whispers in the back of your mind. Unfortunately you can't look to how other black developers are treated by Brad. There aren't any.

You get some fresh air to clear your mind before sitting at your desk to make those changes Brad suggested. "git checkout master". Typing those words, you notice for the first time that "master" is a word with other connotations. Really, they had to choose that word? I mean, it would be a silly thing to complain about aloud.

Nevertheless, for months, every time you type that word part of you thinks "Really?" It doesn't upset you, exactly, but it reinforces a sense that this workplace is--hostile is too strong of a word--but not welcoming to black people. Maliciously indifferent. The kind of indifference that sees an enormous racial disparity and shrugs.

It's called a micro-aggression for a reason. It's a small thing. But small things add up. And it's an easy fix, so why not?


Micro aggression is not about the size of the action, it's about the scale (on how many people it is applied).

I'm not black, but i worked with Brad before. Years later, I realize Brad was largely right, although a bit of a dickhead with an attitude, but I learned not to be emotionally attached to my code and not think everyone has a beef with me.

We are teaching people how to be a bunch of cry babies with all this microaggression nonsense and safe spaces. People need to have a thicker skin, not everyone who disagrees with you or doesn't treat you right has something against you, they sure as hell have reasons for it, not an excuse, but reasons.

Checkout Ego Is The Enemy, a light/easy read book, but it introduces you to what I'm saying a little deeper.


Of course, everyone has minor workplace tension and conflict at times, and working through those things is just part of the job. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do what we can to make people feel welcome and at ease.


The concern is that, by promoting the mindset that these terminological disputes are real aggressions, we're making people feel less welcome even as we take more concrete action. We're building a culture that encourages people to assume they're unwelcome until proven otherwise, never trust or take at face value their coworkers' stated commitments to inclusivity, always assume the worst rather than give the benefit of the doubt.


Hypothetical offenses do not add up, because they are insubstantial. That is why not.


Yeah, sure. So when I argue with Brad and he doesn't like my commit, it's because I'm ... no, not black, no, not gay, not even a woman, even if my ancestors were enslaved (quite possibly) I don't know it for sure. Hell, why can't I find an easy explanation? Have to live with the white guy privilege. Of course I will never assume I'm a jerk (or maybe he is), or simply the code is not so great. So every time he tells me to type git (https://www.thefreedictionary.com/git) I feel his aggression. Maybe it's time to grow up?


>Imagine that your great-great grandparents were enslaved.

I am going to go out on a limb and say 99% of people have had their ancestors enslaved. Is having an ancestor enslaved 150 years ago different than somebody who had their ancestors enslaved 200 or 300 years ago? If you, your parents, quite possibly even your grand parents never even met the slave in your family then it is irrelevant.


My ancestors may have been slaves 1,000 years ago. Even serfdom in Europe began to fizzle out 500 years ago. My ancestors were never enslaved in the US, under the US Constitution, under a US Congress, US President, and US judicial system. If your grandfather can tell you stories about his grandfather who was once enslaved, I think that matters. I think our understanding of where we come from matters.


Many white people were literal slaves around the same time (in the 1800s and before). Look into the Barbary slave trade. Over 1 million white people were held as slaves in Africa. Even some Americans were held as slaves in the Barbary Coast.

I guess I don't think where our ancestors came from is very important. I only know where my ancestors lived about 200 years ago and it is just general areas not any specifics. I don't know anything more than that. This is quite possibly about the same amount of years as many blacks whose ancestors came over during the slave trade.


The last African American former slave died in 1972. This isn't ancient history for some people. Given that, I think yes, it is very different if someone deep in your family tree was enslaved versus your parents or grandparents.

I mean, the mere fact that you can trace your lineage back that far is indicative of the difference. Many people find their identity through their culture, and often times that perspective is gained by tracing their origins back generations. The foods you eat, the customs you share with your family, even your name.

Some people can trace their lineage back through dozens of generations. Other people can't see past a few levels up the family tree because their history was destroyed by a more recent slaver society. For some people, the traditions in their family are the traditions of their enslaved ancestors. The songs they sing were sung on the fields their ancestors were forced to work. The names in their family are the names forced upon them by their oppressors. Their family cook book contains recipes their enslaved ancestors used to make the scraps they were thrown palatable. Theirs is not an organic culture, but one that formed out of necessity due to the conditions forced on them by slavers (relatively) recently. So yes, I think it does matter that even if a person has never met a slave themselves, they can still feel the reverberations of slavery quite strongly.


I think your stats are quite suspect (in fact, made up, as you pretty much mention) and no, it's not at all irrelevant. I know my family history back to the 1600s; these folks were poor as dirt and indebted at times but they were not enslaved. (Some were part of this European 'crofting' system but that is not the same as slavery.)

More importantly, I can ask around in my family and find out family health history, how long people lived; I know where they came from and can find relatives. My African-American friends cannot all do the same. For some, their known family history only goes back to the last slave sale. They don't know where their ancestors came from in Africa. They have limited knowledge of family health history, compared to what I know. I know the language my great-great-great grandparents spoke; they don't. I can do research on historical foods from my area; they can't. With the advent of modern genetics, some can figure out some of that (look, maybe I'm Igbo, let me go to Wikipedia and look that up....) but it's quite different than being able to ask your aunt to set you up on a tour of where your ancestors lived in the 1700s and her being able to just look on her desk for those files.


Many white people were literal slaves around the same time (in the 1800s and before). Look into the Barbary slave trade. Over 1 million white people were held as slaves in Africa. Even some Americans were held as slaves in the Barbary Coast.


“Sufferings in Africa” is a fascinating memoir of some white sailors shipwrecked and enslaved in Africa. The book inspired many white leaders in the US to empathize with the abolition movement.


>Imagine that your great-great grandparents were enslaved. Your grandparents weren't allowed to go to white schools. Your dad was harrassed by the cops as a young man in the deep south. You worry that your colleagues may think you wouldn't have been seriously considered for this job if you weren't an underrepresented minority.

My country was destroyed by Nazis, milions of my country citizens died cuz of it and it was less than century ago.

I'm working fine with german companies / people just fine as I'd work with other country based companies, no bias.

Time to move on.


Will you be equally fine, if the company talks about building 'Economic Reich'. Or if people on probation are sent to 'concentration camp' for a week long training.


You mean if they used "concentration camp"? then I'd laugh off my ass just like I did now because of how ridiculous it sounds

I guess other people could be pissed off, but I think "concentration camp" is nowhere even close to "master"

maybe "camp"/"bootcamp" is close to "master", but then I don't think people would be annoyed over it.

"We're sending people to a week long bootcamp", just pretty normal and neutral statement.

equivalent of "concentration camp" would be "we'd want you to work as our slave" in job description sent to black person.


Not the parent, but your characterization of the stated perspective reveals quite well that you aren’t taking it seriously! This is a complex issue, so let’s treat it that way.

The micro-aggression, as I understand it, is having to ask yourself whether the term ‘master’ _did_ originate from slavery (in the context of git, IIRC it didn’t, but master-slave replication is the stronger example). The context and plan fact is that programming, as a broad culture, to date, _has_ been excluding Black people and others. So it is not hard to imagine some folks desiring to make a symbolic change to make the culture more inclusive.


I understand your intentions are noble, but we kinda go back to one of the points the author of the post was making: Has anybody bothered to asked black developers if the terminology alienates them, or makes them feel uncomfortable?

I don't believe it was the technical terminology that caused unwelcoming conditions, but the people in the industry.


Black people (or developers, for that matter) are not a monolith, obviously. So me providing one example (https://dev.to/afrodevgirl/replacing-master-with-main-in-git...) only goes to show that it is a concern among some in the community.

And, of course technical terminology _alone_ is not the issue! Totally agree that there is more to be done. I just find it amusing that there is so much pushback on this particular aspect (the naming of the branch). Clearly it is a concern, and it is on the whole a small thing to change. Larger systemic change is of course more ideal, but sometimes the battle starts at the symbolic level and expands from there.


So before I answer, I'm aware that there's a bit of "cognitive dissonance" going on in my head about this topic. One one hand I fully agree with you, but on the other it feels like it's deflecting/trivialising the issue and creates a false sense of accomplishment that will delay the necessary change.

> I just find it amusing that there is so much pushback on this particular aspect

I think push back comes not from attachment to "master" but from the emotions the virtue-signalling crowd causes in people who desire real change. The virtue-signallers are like the kid on a school project who did virtually nothing, and then tried to claimed all the credit once the project was done. It's a bit "hashtag-contribution," but ironically. It awakes a sense of righteousness in people (whether it's misguided or not is another topic) that think this is stupid, useless, and some probably think it's harmful because it pacifies a large group of people with thinking change happened, when it didn't. It's a bit like seeing a broken website, then changing the button colour and calling the website fixed and being done with it.

However, it's like you said, people aren't monoliths. Various people have trigger words. Some people get triggered by "moist," someone in another comment mentioned Jews have the right to be offended by the word "concentration" or the word "camp" (yes, even if it's out of context; master in the case of git is also very out of context to slavery).

I don't think changing the world for the sake of individuals is possible/scalable, but what we should do is try and accommodate them. I'm all for making people included and accommodating them, to a degree in which it doesn't make me feel uncomfortable in; I want to be given the same courtesy.

It feels like Alex from the blog post waited for the world to change, instead of being the change he wants to see. Waiting for the world to change is futile, you can only influence your environment to a degree, and if that doesn't work look for a better one that suits you better. I don't know if Alex did that or not, but it reads as if he was passive until now. I guess better late than never.

> Larger systemic change is of course more ideal, but sometimes the battle starts at the symbolic level and expands from there.

I fully agree with you on this, which is where my cognitive dissonance kicks in. I guess part of the reason is that, even though I agree symbolic changes are good, I don't feel that this was even symbolic enough. A better symbolic change in my mind would be for Github to announce a paid apprenticeship program for people without a STEM/CS background, and try to also somehow cover more black communities. I don't know how this would be executed[1], or if it even can be executed, so maybe it's not a well thought-out idea.

[1]: Maybe engage/market more proactively at schools/communities where the majority of the students/people are black?

Edit: This comment describes the issue more eloquently and succinctly than I could! https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26492686


The problem I have with this name change, and reasoning like this, is that there is no "slave" component of the master branch convention. There is no reference to slavery. My understanding is that it's taken from the way records are made, by using a "master" copy which is copied. Should that change?

Should all uses of the word "master" be changed? Is the main character of the Halo games a microaggression? Metallica's "Master of Puppets"? Is "master bedroom" a microaggression?

Like the author said, it just feels like a meaningless gesture so people can feel better about themselves without fixing any real issues.


> The problem I have with this name change, and reasoning like this, is that there is no "slave" component of the master branch convention. There is no reference to slavery.

It's apparently an indirect reference, because its taken from the master/slave usage in BitKeeper, even though there is no slave on the git context.

In any case, “main” is simply descriptive rather than either a not very apt metaphor or an out-of-context reference to another (also not very descriptive) metaphor, so it's an improvement independently of whether “master” had social problems on top of it's descriptive ones.


It's not an indirect reference. Word "master" in BitKeeper was used for context where word "origin" is used in Git.


> It's apparently an indirect reference, because its taken from the master/slave usage in BitKeeper, even though there is no slave on the git context

The (likely) basis for the belief that BitKeeper use master/slave and git followed them, the GNOME mailing list post[0] that reignited this discussion in 2019, was retracted the next year[1].

I wrote a summary of the history[2] for Git Rev News, the git developers newsletter. In short, the usage didn't come from BitKeeper, and was intended to mean 'master copy'.

After the article was published, Aaron Kushner from BitKeeper reached out and gave me some more history on the usage of 'slave repository' in that one particular spot in BitKeeper[3]: it was a presentation for a client that was already using master/slave terminology and so the same terms were used in the presentation.

0: https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2019-May/...

1: https://mail.gnome.org/archives/desktop-devel-list/2020-June...

2: https://git.github.io/rev_news/2020/07/29/edition-65/

3: https://twitter.com/AndrewArdill/status/1350537333292949505


Actually, I think residential real estate as an industry has been moving away from references to master bed/bath.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/05/realestate/master-bedroom...


lol.

https://wptavern.com/proposal-to-rename-the-master-branch-fr...

`main` is just as bad as `master` but for a part of the world which is not domestic US.

Plus... you do know there's this thing called "Masters" degree, right?


Relevant section:

> As harmless as the word “main” seems in most Western cultures, a comment posted by Mike Schroder (original Japanese text by Takayuki Miyoshi and translation by Shinichi Nishikawa) pointed out that it was problematic in Japanese culture. “In Japan, for example, to put ‘main’ and ‘others’ as different groups has been utilized as an excuse to justify discrimination,” said Miyoshi. “Not caring about suppressing the Ainu people and their culture at all is possible because of the assumption that Yamato folk is the main and others are secondary. I now came to a point to think we should consider that to set one thing as ‘main’ creates marginals that get oppressed.”

I didnt know that, though it does not sound as bad?

maybe thats my own cultural bias speaking?


I'm Japanese. I read original argument and it looks like not well plausible. Some Japanese tend to classify people and things to main「主要な」 / other「その他」 but it not mean "main" is discriminative word. It's just "main" but sometimes usage is discriminative.


> It's just "main" but sometimes usage is discriminative.

So... just like "master"?


Microaggressions aren't a well defined concept that actually exists.


Can you name a single person the term 'master branch' has hurt?

Your subconscious bias of being an oppressor is showing. You are pushing your views onto others. This is what some slave owners tried to do. Maybe you should check your privilege and stop engaging in microaggressions before accusing everybody else of doing the same.


You can't take HN threads further into flamewar like this, regardless of how wrong another comment is or you feel it is.

Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules when posting here.

Edit: it unfortunately looks like your account has been using HN primarily for ideological battle, or is close to it. That's the line at which we ban an account, for reasons explained here: https://hn.algolia.com/?sort=byDate&dateRange=all&type=comme.... I don't want to ban you, so please stop doing this.


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