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SAP abandones some racist language – and no one seems to care?!

SAP CTO Juergen MUELLER‘s blog https://blogs.sap.com/2020/09/11/making-the-software-industry-a-little-more-inclusive/ is up for > 2 Weeks and featured on the front page for at least > 1 Week.

As if now, it has ( 17 Likes 548 Views and ) only 1 comment. I think this is very, very low, isn’t it?

Screenshot%20showing%20the%20front%20page%20and%20the%20blog%20with%20its%20statistics

Screenshot showing the front page and the blog with its statistics

 

And I wonder: How come?

  • There probably are people thinking this is a silly, un-needed move, and I cant’t change their mind (and I don’t want to discuss that), but it seems that at least they keep their toxic opinion for themselves. This is good.
  • There might be some people who think this is a great move, a huge achievement – why don’t they cheer?
  • There surely are many people thinking this is on step, but certainly not the only one needed. Why don’t they say so? And ask for (or better: demand!) the next, bigger steps?

I know and acknowledge that speaking up is not possible for all -> this makes it even more important to do so for those that can speak up safely!

Best
Joachim

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Screenshot%20showing%20the%20front%20page%20and%20the%20blog%20with%20its%20statistics
12 Comments
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  • One thing is for sure. Anyone who says anything in the slightest way negative about such a move, or even questions it, would suffer the fate of the victims in the “Dark Mirror” episode “Hated by the Nation”. So is Scott Adams going to suffer the same fate as Charlie Hedbo?

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    • You are on to something. You can see the viciousness with which such discussions descend into on social media. Such polarizing dialogue does not accomplish anything positive.  Better to steer clear and avoid crucifixion by one side or the other.

  • I don’t know how others see this, how could I?

    Personally, I do think it is the right thing to do™ and, in fact, the right thing.
    SAP is publicly jumping on the bandwagon and clearly chooses to do this publicly for the hopefully positive image this makes.

    But is that something that requires applause/likes? I don’t think so. Especially not, since SAP is merely a follower in this move, not leading change here.

    This becomes clear also when there is no mention of how using more appropriate words (like “allow-list”) improves the communication by not relying on the informal understanding of what is meant by “blacklist”/”whitelist” and similar terms. Besides the problematic connotations of the terms, their application in the technical domain is also problematic because the terms are vague and not precise.

    Often, this goes along with an ambiguous understanding of the domain that should be described.

    All in all, in my view at least, it is very much in the interest of SAP and technologists to get rid of such loan-words and replace them with terminology that is fit for purpose both in the technical domain as well as in the people context that the technology exists in.

    So, I acknowledge that SAP decided to take this step, but it’s really nothing to write home about.

    And as long as non-public aspects of coding still continue to use those terms (how many git “master” branches are they going to rename?) I don’t consider it a sign of culture change.

    my 2 cts

  • Lars is 100% correct that changing a few terms here and there in a knee-jerk response to something that is all over the Media (e.g. food products with racist names, the “Dixie Chicks” becoming the “Chicks” because of the “Mason-Dixon Line”) is a totally different thing to real lasting cultural change

    When I was at university in the 1986-90 period in London the student council decided that the term “Chairman” could no longer be used as that implied the person holding that role would always be a man. So the title was renamed to “Chairperson”. So far, so good.

    Then however someone noted that the word “Chairperson” ended with “son” which is a male term. So the title was renamed once again to “Chairperoffspring”. I wish I was making that up. I think that move was totally counterproductive, it made people who were trying to do the right thing look like fools and no-one took them seriously ever again.

    Here in Australia – where I am sorry to say there is a big racism problem – some people think renaming some of the states will magically make the problem go away. The proposal is to rename the state of Queensland and Victoria (because both were named after Queen Victoria who had the racist views common at that time) and, amazingly, Western Australia on the grounds that Westerns depict Native Americans in a bad light. That last one is insane, Western Australia is called Western Australia because it is on the west side of the country, nothing to do with movies at all.

    Then there was the debate the other day about Chess being racist because white moves first. I wish I knew the answer. It’s a problem that desperately needs to be solved – my wife gets loads of racist abuse to this day – but are we going about this the right way by focusing in on terms like “server room” which 99.9% of the world would never have heard of?

    Having said that I will in fact remove the term “white list” from the presentation I am giving (virtually) to a South African SAP conference next month just to show solidarity. After all, just as with the “Chairpersoffspring” thing peoples hearts are in the right place.

  • Racism is bad and dangerous, to begin with.

    Alas I don’t know if this couldn’t backfire one day.

    Those are technical terms almost nobody thought about, until now. Now they are made political and zealots and true racists could abuse those terms for their own ends.

    Thinking about whitelist/opposite-of-whitelist: actually this is from light vs. shadow. Do we want to ban shadow from being gray to black? Is black really that bad in our thoughts? Think of black belt in martial arts. Highest rank to master. Ninjas wear black clothing to blend better into shadows. Also in fashion: Real men wear black ;-).

    The WWF uses the term ‘red list’ for endangered species for decades. Should we ban this term in favour of the Native Americans? They would also have reason to dislike.

    Also Master: to master is to be really good at something. Master degree at the university.

    What I want to say: If we start banning words we also start poisoning topics completely unrelated to what we want to achieve.

    And if people start being annoyed by the possible collateral damage, we achieve the complete opposite.

    So let’s be careful.

     

    my 2 cts