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Torvalds signs off on banning a list of racist words

by on13 July 2020

Linux team ends the use of 'slaves'

Linus Torvalds approved a new and more inclusive terminology for the Linux kernel code and documentation which means the end of words which might be racist or generally backward.

Linux developers have been asked to use new terms for the master/slave and blacklist/whitelist terminologies.

Proposed alternatives for master/slave include:

main/replica or subordinate
host/worker or proxy

Alternatives for blacklist/whitelist include:


The Linux team did not recommend any specific terms but asked developers to choose as appropriate. The new terms are to be used for new source code written for the Linux kernel and its associated documentation.

Older terms will only be allowed for maintaining older code and documentation, or "when updating code for an existing (as of 2020) hardware or protocol specification that mandates those terms".

Moves to phase out the master/slave and blacklist/whitelist terminologies came after a proposal filed by Linux kernel maintainer Dan Williams on July 4. Linux creator Linus Torvalds approved the proposal on Friday in a pull request for the Linux 5.8 repository.

The Linux team has now joined many tech companies and open-source projects that have removed references to racially-charged jargon from their code for more neutral and inclusive language.

The list includes Twitter, GitHub, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Ansible, Splunk, Android, Go, MySQL, PHPUnit, Curl, OpenZFS, Rust, JP Morgan, and others.

The trend to clean-up insensitive language from source code, tools, and tech documentation began after Black Lives Matter protests erupted in the US, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

The primary goal of these efforts is to make tech products and IT environments more welcoming for people of different races.

Some members of the tech community have criticised the movement as shallow virtue signalling rather than an action that helps people of color against systematic racism. However, work published in academic journals has previously argued that continuing to use racially-charged terms prolongs racial stereotypes.


Last modified on 13 July 2020
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