Master & Main

— 886 words —

2020 was a hell of a year. One of the many things that occurred is programmers began to re-evaluate certain terminology, starting with master/slave. It always did puzzle me as to why both computer science and electrical engineering had master/slave as terms. I hadn’t seen that much in computing but I saw it a lot in audio engineering, particularly when dealing with syncing clocks to a master clock. …​Whoever chose the term slave was incredibly tone deaf at best, to put it lightly, especially when paired with master.

I completely agree with changing these- who wouldn’t? slave has just nasty connotations across history, across continents. master/node, leader/follower etc, get across the same meaning just as well so there are no excuses.

Where I begin scratching my head is some of the other terms that got targeted, such as whitelist and blacklist. These terms' origins are not related to race. I actually never knew those origins until this debacle, but they’re fairly interesting.

My issue here is that people who are supposedly targeting racism are conflating the words white with good and black with bad. I certainly do not see it this way, and I would venture that no reasonable person does either. White and Black are relatively recent (yet outdated) arbitary race constructs, yes, but white and black are also colors (or the lack thereof) that physically exist in our universe. It does not make sense to say that any terms with a white/black dichototomy must necessarily be racist. In fact, I believe it’s extremely racist to suggest this.

Whatever happened to understanding words in context? For example, the word dominant means very different things in musician and BDSM circles. It is not difficult to interpret words in context.

Where I really begin to take issue is with the targeting of the word master, by itself. This makes no sense, as master has many varied usages outside of the master/slave usage. Looking at Learner’s Dictionary there are at least 11 different uses.

Are we (and github, et. al) going to ban Master’s degrees? Masters of crafts/hobbies? Master bedrooms? White and black hats? This is honestly so ridiculous as to almost be a parody.

But why do you care so much, Andrew? Don’t you have more important things to worry about?

Responding to this "argument" is like trying to respond to "you’re just mad" or "you’re salty". Going "No I’m not" just feeds it, and the point is to shut down conversation, not have a discussion.

Nevertheless, I take issue with the principle of the matter here. All of a sudden, a word has been deemed NotGood and now you must acquiesce to the arbitary demands, or else you get accused of being Racist.

C’mon, be reasonable here. It’s a small change, so why not?

The size of the change is irrelevant. I object to arbitrarily policing other people’s behavior and words. I’m as much of an arbiter of the word master as you are; not at all. This change looks innocuous enough until you consider how it’s effectively an attempt to police our thoughts, and I suppose that’s why it rubs me the wrong way.

Furthermore, bullying people into accepting a position by threatening them with labels is the opposite of healthy debate.

Why are you opposed to something that potentially makes someone feel more safe?

Of course I’m not opposed to that, to a reasonable extent. There are times when it’s appropriate to honor a request. There are other times when the request is not reasonable, so the response is more like "grow a thicker skin" and "stop conflating white with good".

There is a difference of being reasonable or accomodating, and allowing people to walk over you because they say they’re on the right side. Nobody thinks they’re on the wrong side!

I am not special. You are not special.

To put it bluntly, we [if you’re in the USA reading this] are getting f—​ed in the a-- by our politicians and our police at all levels with zero recourse.

There are so many real issues to deal with (and not just in the USA), and I will not be told by slacktivists changing the name of git branches that a) I’m Racist for disagreeing with words arbitrarily being deemed NotGood and b) that they are doing anything useful for Black Americans at all.

How many of you have called or emailed your house representatives and senators even once? How many of you have voted in a non-presidential election? (Such as, say, a Sheriff’s election)…​

If it makes you feel better to use alternative terminology or words, go right ahead. If people want to ignore any and all context for words, that’s their prerogative, and not really my problem. Furthermore, I will continue calling people who conflate white with good and black with bad what they are: racists.

I don’t think I’m being unreasonable here, but I invite discussion (preferably through email) if you disagree.

I say Black Americans here because these discussions almost always center around the USA’s history, and completely gloss over i.e. slavery and prejudice in Asia. But then we’d have to actually acknowledge things like Koreans being slaves as recently as the 1920s and the fact that the USA is not the center of the universe…​

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My $850 smartwatch can’t render Korean text
My setup for remote programming on OSX in 2019
Korean for Programmers
My growth as a self-taught developer in 2018