By now you may have heard that GitHub plans to replace "master" with an alternative term to avoid slavery references
I'll hopefully explain this throughout, but my main focus here isn't actually this specific GitHub debate. I am not trying to add to this question, or even make a claim in support or against.
Angie Jones @ #JuneteenthConfWho resparked the master branch convo right now?
It's upsetting me and my homegirls.
We are literally fighting to save lives and y'all are fighting to save a software term.
We're in a war against racsim. Keep your ridiculous term (for now) and pick a bigger battle.00:12 AM - 16 Jun 2020
This blog post was inspired by Juneteenth and looking into different ways that I could get involved and write a relevant post. So first, here are some important things you can be doing today (that do not include fighting on the internet about a tech term):
- 8 ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement after the protests end
- Calls To Make Juneteenth A Federal Holiday Gain Momentum
- 10 Things We Want White People to Do to Celebrate Juneteenth
If you want more info on just the GitHub decision, here are some more general articles:
- Microsoft's Github is removing coding terms like 'master' and 'slave'
- 'Master' and 'slave': Tech terms face scrutiny amid anti-racism efforts
This is a good dev post in support: Github is replacing the word master to avoid slavery references. Deal with it.
and this is a good post against: 9 problems with replacing "master" in Git. This one is very good for what I would consider an in between.
Again - not trying to add to what has become a classic internet troll debate with no seemingly correct answer and a lot of loud white people going in circles. And yes, I am white, so I sincerely acknowledge that I can't speak for anyone on this issue.
But I am a woman, and I know what it's like to feel excluded from the tech community by things that might seem small to others. So I'm just going to share some things other people have said on this topic that I have found helpful and/or relevant to bigger issues.
First, some Twitter humor that generally represents my stance:
And one in opposition that I was prepared to argue against:
David Daniel@davydany@natfriedman @Una @github @billygriffin22 🤦♂️ this is just stupid .... "master" branch in git doesn't mean the same as master/slave, it simply means the main branch..
The word "Master" has other meanings too... Like verb: acquire complete knowledge or skill ... Or the meaning here, adjective: main or principal.02:13 AM - 15 Jun 2020
Largely because I find it insensitive to say anything along the lines of "I've never thought of it this way, therefore it is not offensive." To quote another Tweet:
Angie JonesThis is the bare MINIMUM you can do and yall can't even do this without whining and centering yourselves.
Yes we know slavery never crosses *your* mind when you hear it. When does it ever? THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT!
If you cant even do the light work, pls just get out of the way00:29 AM - 16 Jun 2020
BUT - and I cannot emphasize this enough - I am not here to add to this specific GitHub debate. I know some commenters are going to miss this point, so maybe I should have left the word GitHub out of my title. Might go back and edit if this still isn't clear: I am talking about microaggressions in tech in general, inspired by and relating to the GitHub debate, but more so as a post dedicated to the larger importance of simple awareness of microaggressions.
Some people against the 'master change' understand the importance of implicit bias and just think this particular debate is trivial. Again - I am not addressing that!! But a lot of people who think the word shouldn't be changed also seem to think a lot of other things shouldn't be changed. That's what this is about. Bigger. Picture.
Many will openly admit that, yes, this debate is not just about technology or force of habit. It's about fear and anger toward a larger 'PC culture,' microaggressions, over-sensitivity, coddling, etc.
I can kind of see how this is the only possible argument against something as small and easy as changing a few letters in a branch name. To oppose something so small, you really must be dreaming up some wild 1984 slippery slope fallacies. These articles (The Atlantic and The Guardian) address this better and more calmly than I can.
I grew up in several very white communities, and I thought, up until college, that I could not be racist because I didn't have any consciously racist thoughts. I thought racism was explicit - hate crimes, slurs, segregation. I heard the term micro-aggression for the first time in college, and I also wondered if it was 'the wrong hill to die on,' 'taking away from more serious issues,' etc.
This is an excellent article with many sources on the general importance of micro-aggressions.
I slowly learned more, but the most significant event was a course I took on The Psychology of Stereotyping and Prejudice. I might be coming off too self-righteous, ivory tower white savior here, so I will try not to go too deep into this. I just feel like these kinds of courses and materials are not common in formal education, or even the debates all over the internet now. People love to debate about their experiences, and maybe articles they've read about current events, but are less likely to read about how abstract, experimental, and unconscious psychology might be affecting how we think about these problems.
One of my favorite books on this topic, and in general, is Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. It's not entirely focused on race, though, so you should probably first check out the many Anti-Racist Reading Lists being discussed lately. But if those are too much for you or your white grandmother's fragility right now, this is an excellent place to start.
If you want something shorter than a book, this is a great scholarly article: Language Matters: Considering Microaggressions in Science
Clearly these debates can be polarizing and make people in the middle feel attacked and overly defensive, so I do want to stress - the whole point of understanding micro-aggressions and implicit bias is understanding how we all perpetuate negative things without conscious awareness that we are doing it.
I'm still not entirely sure where I stand on this specific GitHub name change question. There's definitely too much white-splaining going on. That's why I tried to amplify as many other voices besides my own here. Regardless of where you stand on the GitHub question - it makes me uncomfortable to see these conversations still being dominated by white cishet men (regardless of their stance!)
Mina Markham 🧁@minamarkham@zkat__ I’ve never like the master/slave terminology. Similarly I don’t like the male/female analogy for peripherals.
Changes like these are important because language matters. But if these are the only changes an organization wants to make, then yes it’s performative.19:35 PM - 15 Jun 2020
Either way, this certainly cannot be the only thing you do or care about in anti-racism. We should still criticize GitHub for other things, just like we should with every organization right now putting up a BLM statement and nothing else.
main is small, and maybe won't make much of a difference whether it happens or not. But the larger idea here of micro-aggressions and implicit bias in perpetuating exclusivity in one of the most homogenous industries should be worth considering.