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Linux kernel developers: This new BLM coding style avoids words like blacklist | ZDNet

Key Linux kernel maintainers have largely welcomed a new proposal by Intel engineer and fellow kernel maintainer Dan Williams to introduce inclusive terminology in the kernel’s official coding-style document.   The first to sign off on Williams’ proposal were Chris Mason and Greg Kroah-Hartman. But other maintainers have approved the proposal too, which requires kernel developers…

Key Linux kernel maintainers have mostly welcomed a new proposition by Intel engineer and fellow kernel maintainer Dan Williams to introduce inclusive terminology in the kernel’s official coding-style document.   

The first to sign off Williams’ proposal were Chris Mason and Greg Kroah-Hartman. However, the proposal has been accepted by maintainers which necessitates kernel developers to avoid using the words’servant’, for branches and development trees, and’blacklist’. 

Williams argues that non-inclusive terminology distracts maintainers and”injures programmer efficiency”. 

The recommended substitutes for’servant’ are’secondary’,’subordinate’,’replica’,’responder’,’follower’,’proxy’, or’celebrity’. Rather than blacklist, programmers should use’blocklist’ or’denylist’.  

“In 2020 there was a worldwide reckoning on race relations that caused several organizations to reevaluate their policies and practices relative to the addition of people of African Americans,” Williams argues.   

“The revelation of 2020 was that black voices were heard on a global scale and the Linux kernel project has done its small part to answer that call because it needs black voices, one of all listeners, in its own developer community.”

Microsoft-owned GitHub can also be planning to fall master/slave and blacklist/whitelist language from the site as part of its reaction to the BLM protests.  

Williams also deals with the expected opposition to a ban on the term blacklist, which has racial connotations when use now even if the expression wasn’t made with race in your mind — as opposed to’servant’, which is tied to a history of human distress. 

And he’s against the idea of substituting blacklist/whitelist with various colours because understanding the meaning of colors constantly comes from a distinct social or historical context, and this runs counter to the goal of inclusion. 

“While’slave’ has an immediate connection to individual suffering, the etymology of’blacklist’ is devoid of a historic racial link. But, one idea exercise would be to consider replacing’blacklist/whitelist’ with’redlist/greenlist’,” he writes. 

“Realize that the replacement only makes sense if you have been socialized with the concepts that’red/green’ implies’stop/go’. \Colors to represent a policy requires an indirection. The socialization of’black/white’ to have the connotation of’impermissible/permissible’ does not encourage addition.”

Kernel maintainer Dave Airlie agreed that using colors to signify a policy is simply a terrible idea, even if there’s absolutely not any racist connotation or intention.

“I’d totally distribute that red/black trees while in no way racist, are a dreadful indirection, as it means nothing if you have never interacted with gambling culture, (and possibly James Bond films ),” wrote Airlie

“Left/right trees make naturally more sense and interpret into more languages, so yes I believe elimination of color naming is a great thing even for non-racist reasonings.”

Willy Tarreau, a veteran kernel maintainer, was concerned that as a non-native English speaker, he may want to employ more filtering words and that”to figure whether they are allowed by the language police is much harder”. 

“*Thisinjures developers’ efficiency,” he argued. 

Mason suggested to Tarreau that among kernel developers there’s very little reason to be concerned about language authorities. 

“Inside the kernel, it’s only a group of developers trying to help each other create the best quality of code. We’ve got a long history together and in general I think we’re pretty good at assuming good aim,” composed Mason.   

Tarreau also thinks that instead of a blocklist of words to be avoided, the project should prevent all words taken out of the non-technical world. Mason agreed with this point.

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