We fixed racism, now let’s remove all other references to slavery

Ok, so github boldly claims that they fixed slavery by renaming the term „master” to something else1)they obviously don’t claim that. But that’s how this kind of action feels like. This is not a new idea, I have seen it in other places as well. Python people were finally hitting the high of a lifetime when they removed all master/slave terminology from their base code. Now people who had slaves in their family tree (which is basically everyone in the world, depends on how far you want to look in the past) can properly master python coding without thinking at all about the horrible crime of slavery. And without thinking at all, which is, after all, the purpose of python2)I’m not only serious, but also a bit fawning over this quality of the language.

Now it’s time to do the hard work. Please remove all the references to the word robot, and the word serve from your code as well. That means all robotics, all the bots, all the robot references, all service references as well. It’s not obvious why? Let me educate you.

The word robot comes from Karel Čapek’s play Rossumovi Univerzalul Roboti, published in 1920. It was used to denominate a category of human look-alike artificial workers. Subhumans, that is. You’re not shocked yet? Ok, let’s discuss further about what robot means. Robot is a slavic term for a person who performs „robota” – forced work/labor. If this sounds like slavery it’s because it is. It’s the special type of slavery that allowed the Austro-Hungarian brand of feudalism to thrive – it was performed by jobbágy, peasants tied to the land they inhibited. In case you are wondering what this means, it means that if you were born as a peasant in a village in Austrian-held Transylvania of the 1800s, you were not allowed to leave your village, unless your lord/master/gróf allowed it. Does it sound like slavery? That’s because it was.

Also, the term șerb, which comes from the latin „to serve” was used for hundreds of years to denominate the special slavery state that these peasants held. Therefore, please remove all your services. Do you like your Software as a Service? You therefore like slavery?

Or we can do the sensible thing. Keep the names, keep the master/slave denomination as well. If we go too deep in our vocabulary we see that most of our activity can have multiple meanings, some offensive as well. It’s not the words that kept slaves, it’s the slave masters.

But you’re not open to that conversation yet, are you?

NOTES   [ + ]

1. they obviously don’t claim that. But that’s how this kind of action feels like
2. I’m not only serious, but also a bit fawning over this quality of the language

5 Replies to “We fixed racism, now let’s remove all other references to slavery”

  1. Augustin Preda

    And then there’s learning on MasterClass :). What do they teach? White supremacy?

    Now in all seriousness, renaming the master branch to something else would be both good and bad.

    Bad because it’s basically norm.
    Good if we find a better name. It’s not like in a DVCS sick as git it would be a real master branch, controlling anything. It may not even be the main branch. It’s just a default name.

    But I do agree that it would be also expected for StarCraft to drop its GrandMaster league. Chess masters and grand masters are even more funny. Are they allowed to play both white and black?

  2. Dorin Lazăr

    I suppose that they will rename the master to HEAD and that’s a bad thing, because that’s racist towards all those headless people, including the very same people pushing a change that nobody needs.

  3. Preda Livius Augustin

    You cannot rename it to HEAD; it’s already in use. 🙂
    Also, headless people is a bit of a slur. They prefer alternative upper bodied people

  4. Dragoș Iorgulescu

    Mind blown. This political correctness thing just got way out of control, and it’s been happening for a while now. It seems that there is no reason left. And the fact that big companies hop along this absurd train ride just boggles the hell out of me.

  5. Ady

    “It’s not the words that kept slaves, it’s the slave masters.” Funny this reminds me about the saying: “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. In the late quote the fact that Americans have access to guns is an issue. In the first, too little access to words (books) is a huge issue. Saying this I realise that education is the answer to both guns and racism…

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