- Blacklist, Whitelist
- Black Hat, White Hat, Gray Hat
- First-Class Citizen
- Gendered Pronouns (e.g., he, she, guys, gals)
- Man-in-the-Middle (MITM)
- Master, slave
- Redline, Redlining
- Sanity Check
Below is a list of terms to avoid in specifications or common use. These terms may have been used in discriminatory contexts that make people feel uncomfortable or be divisive. Khronos strives to be an inclusive organization and finding common language is an important part of that. We ask all members to be aware and strive to use inclusive language. Please refer to the Khronos Code of Conduct for more details.
If you find terms not included in this list, please email suggestions to [email protected]
Lists which permit or deny a set of nouns, or select enabled features.
Block-list / allow-list
Deny / allow
Exempt / allow-list,
Block / permit
The underlying assumption of the whitelist/blacklist metaphor is that white = good and black = bad, which is not a metaphor which should be promoted as it propagates an association with race.
Black Hat, White Hat, Gray Hat
Often refers to different types of hackers, though can be used for other subject domains, with the overall assumption is white = good, black = bad and gray is somewhere in the middle.
The underlying assumption (like blacklist and whitelist) of the black, white, gray hat metaphor is that white = good and black = bad. The hat metaphor was popularized in the old spaghetti westerns, with bad guys in black hats, and good guys in white hats. This is not a metaphor which should be promoted as it carries racial meaning.
Crazy/Insane/Cripple is ableist language and an unnecessary reference to physical disability or mental health in code bases or documents.
Numerous more precise synonyms depending on specific use, for example…
“Crazy” day could be overwhelming, hectic, or ridiculous
Something that is “crippled” could be frozen, stopped by, blocked by, hobbled
When trying to achieve a conversational tone in speech or documents, it is easy for ableist language to slip in. One should be sensitive to word choice and avoid words that reference mental or physical conditions.
Often used in computing to mean placeholder.
fake, mock or stub
One outdated and offensive definition of the word dummy is a person who cannot speak. It also can be used to mean ignorant. While dummy is a popular and often-used term (including the book series titles), it has at least one meaning which is offensive and there are numerous direct replacement options allowing current code and document writers an easy transition to words equally as expressive without offensive meanings.
Historically, a first class-citizen can be understood in contrast to a second-class citizen, a person who is systematically discriminated against within a political jurisdiction, despite their status as a citizen there. A first-class citizen would suffer none of these discriminatory practices. Systems with defacto second class citizen are often regarded as violating human rights
** there is still an issue that “first-class” has specific meaning in programming languages and none of the above are proper replacements
First-class citizen as a term derives its meaning by assumption that there are second-class citizens which do not have the freedoms and opportunities of the first-class. This meaning comes from society and its class based discriminatory practices. Use of terms that derive meaning from this history should be avoided.
Used to refer to a case when an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations while a new rule will apply to all future cases.
Original use of grandfather clauses was in new state constitutions, which set restrictive voter registration rules we set on all voters and “grandfathered” in previous voters. These “grandfathered” voters were whites only. Thus, grandfathering was a way to allow whites to vote under different rules than blacks and thus suppress black voting. In common speech grandfathered refers to the act of letting existing exceptions to a rule or rules continue. Grandfathered, while seemingly an innocent term, actually is tied to slavery and racial bias in government. We should strive to use simpler and better terms in all cases.
Gendered Pronouns (e.g., he, she, guys, gals)
Historical singular pronoun, “he” is assumed as the default singular pronoun when the gender of the person is unknown or ambiguous.
The developer, implementer, etc.
Gendered pronouns are easy to spot and replace, as there should not be an assumption of gender for readers or users of documents. Specific nouns can help clarify a document and also avoids direct comparison with historical phrasing and thus are easier to read and comprehend. Obviously, one can continue to use the appropriate gendered pronoun as needed to refer to a specific individual.
A cyber-attack where secretly relays traffic/data/messages between two parties and where they believe they are communicating directly with each other.Can include alternation of communication or data in the relay process.
Specifically, in this case, we are referencing the use of the word “man” in the name of this cyber-attack which is not gender neutral but has become the preeminent term for this practice. While there are a number of references that suggest keeping MITM acronym but just changing the meaning to monster/monkey/machine-in-the-middle, it is suggested here that the be replaced by Person-in-the-middle (PITM) or other option to actively move to a gender-neutral option. Keeping the MITM acronym without full explanation on each use will continue to add support for the existing Man-in-the-middle meaning.
The “master/slave” metaphor in computing refers to a system with a single store of record and a set of replicas which maintain copies of the original data.
Primary / replica
Primary / secondary
Active / standby
Writer / reader
Controller / actor
Leader / follower
Parent / child
The terms master/slave is associated with slavery. While, master on its own may not be associated with slavery. The term slave is never not associated with slavery. The origins of master/slave in technology are unclear but there is no escaping the association with slavery.
In computing, A “master” often refers to the original or main version of an entity.
The word master can commonly be interpreted as dominance, ownership or control, thus master on its own is a word which should in all cases be avoided. Though it is used as a standalone term, it’s impossible to remove the association with command and control entirely, and thus we recommend moving away from even singular use.
There are a number of definitions of the word redline, in this case we are referring to the act of editing, assessing or reviewing a document.
Redline or redlining historically comes from the systematic denial of services to residents of specific neighborhoods, often on the basis of race. Most well-known examples are banking, insurance or health care. For example, an insurance company bulletin in the 1960’s advised to “use a redline around questionable areas on the map” thus exclude this area as one might use a redline to exclude content in an edited document. As the popular use of redlining comes from systematic racial discriminatory practices thus one should use non-racially charged common synonyms for the practice of editing documents.
Sanity check is ableist language and an unnecessary reference to mental health in code bases or documents. It ties together the idea that people with mental health issues are wrong or inferior.
Check for trivial mistakes
Tying a medical condition or mental health into our documents or code bases is unnecessary, especially with a number of options available as equally worthy replacements.
Information here is adapted from:
- Ansfield, Bench. “The Crisis of Insurance and the Insuring of the Crisis: Riot Reinsurance and Redlining in the Aftermath of the 1960s Uprisings”. Journal of American History (2021).