Linux searches for new names for "Blacklist / Whitelist" and "Master / Slave"

Linux no longer wants to use problematic terms such as master / slave and blacklist / whitelist and is looking for alternatives. Legend Linus Torvalds approved new and more comprehensive terminology for the Linux kernel code and documentation on Friday.

Linux attaches importance to political correctness: For the future, Linux developers were asked to use new terms for the master / slave and blacklist / whitelist terminology. Legend Linus Torvalds approved new and more comprehensive terminology for the Linux kernel code and documentation on Friday.

The suggested alternatives for master / slave include:

  • primary / secondary
  • main / replica or subordinate
  • initiator / target
  • requester / responder
  • controller / device
  • host / worker or proxy
  • leader / follower
  • director / performer

Proposed alternatives for the blacklist / whitelist

  • denylist / allowlist
  • blocklist / passlist

The Linux team did not recommend any specific terms, but asked the developers to make a selection. The new terms are intended to be used for new source code written for the Linux kernel and related documentation.

The older designations, which are now considered inappropriate, are only permitted for the maintenance of older code and documentation or “when updating code for an existing (from 2020) hardware or protocol specification that prescribes these conditions”.

The move to phase out the master / slave and blacklist / whitelist terminology was based on a proposal submitted by Linux kernel maintainer Dan Williams on July 4th. Linux creator Linus Torvalds approved the proposal on Friday in a pull request for the Linux 5.8 repository.

The Linux team has since joined many technology companies and open source projects that have removed references to racist jargon from their code in order to achieve a more neutral and comprehensive language. The list includes TwitterGithub Microsoft, LinkedIn, Ansible, Splunk, Android, Go, MySQL, PHPUnit, Curl, OpenZFS, Rust, JP Morgan and others.

The trend to clean up obsolete language from source code, tools, and technical documentation began after the outbreak of Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, triggered by George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis.

Some members of the tech community have criticized the movement as a superficial signal rather than an action that helps colored people fight systematic racism. However, work published in academic journals has previously argued that the continued use of racist terms hardens existing stereotypes.

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