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Posted under: Technology News

The Python Programming Language Just Got Rid Of These Racially-Charged Terms

And yes, there were white tears.

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The creator of programming language Python has officially banned its master/slavery terminology.

The use of the terms “master” and “slave” aren't exclusive to Python, and have sparked many a debate in the tech community due to their connotations, and their connection to America’s sad history.

Things came to a head last week when Python developer Victor Skinner submitted four pull requests to remove the words from the Python lexicon, according to Motherboard.

“For diversity reasons, it would be nice to try to avoid ‘master’ and ‘slave’ terminology, which can be associated with slavery,” Skinner wrote.

The request led to a bevy of heated commentary from other techies on Python.org.

One user, Steven Daprano, argued "master" and "slave" are actually positive terms: “I strongly disagree with this as a general principle. Master/slave" is a powerful, obvious metaphor which works well and is not the same as parent/child, server/client or employer/worker. In fact, in the BDSM subcultures, "master/slave" can have *positive* connotations. You want to support diversity, then why are you discriminating against that subculture?”

Another tried a "slippery slope" defense of the terms: As a counter-example: A quick grep finds 555 occurrences of the word 'kill' in CPython master.  Everybody knows killing is bad and using the term might upset certain people.  Yet I would not support expunging the word 'kill' from Python.”

And a third proponent of the words said it's just to late to try to change them, as they've been in use for too long: “I'm a little surprised by this.  It's not like slavery was acceptable when these computer science terms were coined and it's only comparatively recently that they've gone out of fashion.  On the other hand, there are some areas in computer software where 'master' and 'slave' are the exact technical terms (e.g. IDE), and avoiding them would lead to confusion.”

Eventually, Python creator Guido Van Rossum stepped in. According to The Register, he retired from the program in July, but is still seen as a respected elder statesman.

“I'm closing this now. Three out of four of Victor's PRs have been merged,” he wrote.

“Slaves” will now be known as “workers” or “helpers” while “masters” will now be “parent processes.”


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Ashleigh is a writer, podcaster and sh*t talker based in Atlanta, GA. She likes food, Beyonce, social justice and the whole bott--er, a glass of wine. Don't start none, won't be none.