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Cover image for Code Smell 223 - Racial Naming
Maxi Contieri
Maxi Contieri

Posted on • Originally published at

Code Smell 223 - Racial Naming

Software evolves, and so does culture.

TL;DR: Avoid old terms like whitelists, blacklists, master, etc.


  • Racial Connotations

  • Exclusionary Language

  • Diverse Perspectives


  1. Use alternative terminology


Language evolves, and technical terms should follow it.

You can change racial names with alternative terminology:

Allowlist: Replace "whitelist" with "allowlist." This term maintains the intended meaning without racial connotations.

Denylist: Substitute "blacklist" with "denylist." This term conveys the same concept without perpetuating negative racial associations.

Permit List and Block List: Another option is to use "permit list" in place of "whitelist" and "block list" instead of "blacklist."

Main branches: You can replace "master" with "main".

Master/Slave: You can replace them with Primary/Replica/Mirror etc.

Sample Code


val whitelist = listOf("Barbie", "Ken")

val blacklist = listOf("Midge")

val gitCommand = "git pull origin master"

val process = Runtime.getRuntime().exec(gitCommand)
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val allowlist = listOf("Barbie", "Ken")

val denylist = listOf("Midge")

val gitCommand = "git pull origin main"

val process = Runtime.getRuntime().exec(gitCommand)
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[X] Semi-Automatic

You can set up a denylist (not a blacklist) of terms you need to double-check for accuracy.


  • References to old manuals


  • Naming


Just as we refactor code to enhance its quality, we should also refactor our language and terminology to promote inclusivity and diversity.

By eliminating racially insensitive terms like "whitelist" and "blacklist" in favor of more inclusive alternatives, we contribute to a more equitable and welcoming tech industry.

Let's embrace change and create a coding environment where everyone feels valued, regardless of their background or ethnicity.


More Info

Prevalence of racist language in discussions of predatory publishing


Rename master to main


Code Smells are my opinion.


Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

An ultimate joint challenge for the biological and the computational sciences is the understanding of the mechanisms of the human brain, and its relationship with the human mind.

Tony Hoare

This article is part of the CodeSmell Series.

Top comments (5)

dumebii profile image
Dumebi Okolo

Okay, this is good.

eagl profile image
Eagl • Edited

Can't find any racial word in this context. Two identical examples with different words of the same meaning that have been using for many years without any problem before. I'm sure the problem is not in those words, but in people.

mcsee profile image
Maxi Contieri

I respect your opinion. Let's hear what other people have to say about it

emtiajium profile image
Emtiaj Hasan

What do you suggest for the "slave"? You know, master-slave is heavily used in DB replication.

mcsee profile image
Maxi Contieri

I think Mirror/Replica/Secondary are better names.

Will add them to the article as well