Change blacklist and whitelist terminology

I recently built a pihole (it’s fantastic btw), and I just found this thread by chance. I had to create an account to comment about this.

A bit of context about myself: I’m a black woman working as a software developer in the Midwest. My perspective about this feature request is: if you really want this thing I guess you can do it, but it won’t make any difference to anything. Don’t believe you’re really helping anybody. Honestly it’s exactly the kind of things my friends keep making jokes about, it’s basically what white people always come up with so they can feel good about themselves by thinking they did something.

I know this thing is coming from a good place, but it would be much better if you could actually do something to help. Go take part in one of your local protests. Make sure you’re registered to vote. And even better yet: there are many places where you can donate. So many good organizations could use your help, pick one you like (there are so many) and organize something to raise money. This community has a platform, use it. That actually could make a real difference. Changing whitelist and blacklist to allowlist and denylist cannot.

~V

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Thanks for your ideas.

I don't think changing the terminology and "really doing something" are mutually exclusive. :slightly_smiling_face:

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For sure! But my point is that this terminology change is useless in helping people, and so far it seems to be the only real action from the pihole community. Basically, doing this change and doing nothing is pretty much the same.

There's nobody I know that ever felt oppressed by the "blacklist" word or concept. If the goal is really to help, there are way more useful things that can be done.

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Hi Villanoise,

I really appreciate your input on this. I tend to agree with you in every point you've raised. I realise this proposed change may be barely any direct help.

I look at it this way: Even from my own limited exposure to the wider topic of discrimination, I've seen numerous people argue about the use of seemingly innocuous language. I've always dismissed it as coming from those who live purely to argue and to signal their virtue as loudly as possible for their own agenda.

Also, and this is again anecdotal, my experience mirrors yours in respect of the general ethnicity of those often seen to be calling for this change.

Making this change would achieve a couple of things:-

  1. Giving a quick 'win' to those who campaign for it, whether it's meaningful in a wider sense or not.
  2. Removing this issue as something people like to make noise about, enabling therefore a higher chance of them moving on to something that more people actually care a lot about.

Not everyone can donate money. Not everyone can protest. Changing a few words in a piece of software may be insignificant by itself, but look where we are today... we're talking about this now as part of a wider issue at a time of heightened perception (and reception, hopefully!).

Maybe someone will read your words and act upon them in the way you wish. Maybe someone else will only support this change to Pi Hole. Either way, progress will be made in some small way.

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To me this topic is a good example of whitewashing.

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Thanks DigitalStefan. I appreciate your post.

A win? For who exactly? Their ego?

I’m sorry, but this cannot keep happening. People are literally dying in the streets, and this is what you all come up with? A debate about the words “blacklist” and “whitelist”, are you kidding? Did anybody here even talked to a black person to know if this was an issue? Because it sure seems to me that nobody here did.

You think that once this distraction is over these people will begin paying attention to the real stuff? No. They will find another imaginary problem to fix, continue to pat themselves on the back, and still stay as far away from the real issues as possible.

There’s an interesting post above trying to justify all of this by sending the message: “We should do it because Google did it!” Sure, let’s follow the example of a company that has a track record of serious issues about diversity.

To address your other point, of course not everyone can donate money or go protest. But there are so many other things that can be done to help and positively affect lives. Just taking the time to talk and genuinely listen to a member of the affected communities would be a much better and meaningful action than what this thread is about (and also less insulting, honestly).

Stop doing inconsequential stuff to hide your inaction. This cannot keep happening.

The more I think about it, the more it infuriates me. And I’m not the only one, believe me. I’ll show myself out now. Good luck to you all.

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I like the discussion going on here.
I am almost inclined to say burn down the house and kick black/white listing.
I'd rather make those few happy than being stubborn.
But there is also the practical use of colors for lists.
It allows simple classifications that are harder to describe by words.
Red list for warnings, green lists for trusted etc. as an example.
I believe this not to be a simple decision.
But will support whatever outcome!

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The Android mobile operating system, the Go programming language, the PHPUnit library and the Curl file download utility have stated their intention to replace blacklist/whitelist with neutral alternatives.

Let's use more inclusive language because we can.

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Please inform us when a new posting is planned and which activist entity is going to post?

Story time! Gather round!

“ In my kitchen I have black and white ceramic tiles on the wall. Some of my neighbors, whose households are mostly made of white men with a history of intolerance towards minorities, also have the same black and white tiles. They say these ceramic tiles are racially-charged, that they reflect racist culture and serve to perpetuate it. Especially since the white tiles are placed on top of the black ones! They have begun replacing them with what they are calling “neutral alternatives.”

They quickly contacted the kitchen design web publications – mostly directed by white men – to tell their story. Now there are numerous articles saying that these households are taking firm actions aligned with the Black Lives Matter protests across the US.

My neighbors seem so proud! I see them on their balconies sipping wine with their friends, and they talk loudly about their new neutral kitchen tiles. Maybe I should change my tiles too?

I guess I will… Because I can!!! Now everybody in the neighborhood will see how much of an ally to this Black Lives Matter thing I am (there won’t be much more black persons entering my household, though. And when I see one, I’ll definitely ask for their IDs.) Did I talked to some black persons to know if my kitchen tiles were offensive to them? Nah, I know in my guts changing the tiles is the right thing to do, whether they like it or not. I know what's good for them.

I’m so proud of myself! I too will be able to proclaim loudly how good a person I am. My neutral and inclusive kitchen tiles will help so much, it's such a step in the right direction. Black people will definitely stop being beaten to death in the streets! ”

-_-

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This is exactly the tl;dr (btw: one was really needed by now!) of this entire discussion.

Thank you sir/mam/person.

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Just came here to weigh in - I just setup PiHole and it's awesome! I was, however, taken aback by the white/blacklist terminology. That's terminology that has to be part of our past! A big vote from me.

Also thanks Villanoise for weighing in, kudos.

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Completely agree with clear terminology to define hardware and software features. Metaphors are not the way to go (regardless of how many years they've been in use). Time for change.

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This is a long discussion and we have seen many points for pro and con changing things. We have also heard people which you are patronizing for (yes, "black people" :scream:) and they said that it doesn't touch/hurt them at all to read "blacklist" anywhere. Just coming in here (probably as a "white man") and putting bold statements like

without contributing anything substantial is just useless.

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I've lurked for a long time but registered to add my support for this topic. I'll vote when I unlock that capability.

I've worked in technology for my entire career and these terms are ubiquitous. That's part of the problem. Although we don't consciously associate the terms with racial meaning, using them is a constant reminder of how our society (speaking about the US) treats white as good and black as bad. To Villanoise's point, there are far more effective actions to take in promoting equity and tackling racism. That doesn't mean we can't, or shouldn't, take the easy ones (like this) too. Where this change does make a difference is by lessening the constant barrage of messages we all swim in everyday that communicates whiteness is better than blackness.

I don't personally believe that any meaning or utility is lost by switching to terms like "allow list" or "deny list." We lose nothing by changing terms, and we gain a better vernacular should the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis turn out to have some truth to it. It's really a very small ask.

As far as our ability to discuss topics like this, I think Jay Smooth said it well in this video: https://youtu.be/MbdxeFcQtaU?t=8. We have much bigger race issues to tackle and in order to do so, we need to be able to talk about it. This topic may be a really small one, but it's something. Don't let it be the only thing.

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I think this request is rather contrary to the goal here. This request (IMO) is attempting to remove color connotation without regard to reason or justification beyond the attempt to end color connotation and "feel good" about doing something. If you really must remove color connotation through society you cannot stop at black and white. For an extremely simple and sarcastic example...

Red must be removed due to it's use in racism against Native Americans.
Yellow must be removed due to it's use in racism against Asians.
Green must be removed due to it's potential use in racism against aliens.

Obviously we are going to have to redesign all traffic safety signals/signage, alert prioritization/ranking visualizations, danger or criticality alarms, etc. We'll need to start by boycotting Star Trek. Has someone started a feature request to change the colors in the pi-hole query logs yet? I see that screen all the time and find it to be much more racially offensive than the whitelist/blacklist phrase I see less often.

I propose we redesign everything into shades of grey. Oh wait, how do I tell granny? :frowning:

Color connotation is not an inherently bad thing. Use and context are important. I have only done a brief search, but racism was not part of the etymology for the term "blacklist". I know it's wikipedia, but the references are pretty good.

Please, focus on effecting real change in the world, and let the dev team work on real features for pi-hole.

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I find your response to be a mischaracterization of this issue. It's a straw man argument. No one is saying that we must remove colors from our technology or our world. I think it's safe to say that people don't see a red light and equate it to anything negative about Native Americans, or think a yellow sun painted on a wall is somehow offensive to Asians. This is a disingenuous argument.

Unfortunately, we see a lot of terms that reinforce black = bad and white = good throughout our society. Black sheep, white knight, black market, blackball, lily-white (innocent), black mark, blackmail. Blacklist and whitelist are just two prominent examples in technology. We also have master/slave and black hat/white hat. "Dark times" are bad followed by "brighter days" ahead. How would it feel if your name was John, and most of society seemed to use "John" as something negative? "Don't John out on me." "Did you check the John list?" What if these examples were gender based instead, and male-oriented terms were used to denote evil, incompetence or danger, while the female-oriented terms communicated the opposite? Would you call that situation sexist? It doesn't matter that we don't intend this meaning to exist; the fact is that these terms come with the baggage of history.

You quoted Wikipedia on this subject but neglected to mention the section on Computing, which points out how many technology companies are removing these terms from their code and documentation. Looking only slightly further into the etymology of blacklist would've made its racist connotation clear. Just one example: https://www.etymonline.com/word/blacklist

These terms have been in use for a long time but that doesn't make them inherently right or good. Language reflects our culture, and in the United States we've had a culture of racism, overt and covert white supremacy since before we declared our independence. That's the society that gave birth to the concepts and the terms we still use today! Moving away from terms that synonymize bad/lesser with race labels ought to be a good thing. Instead we have excuse after excuse about why this isn't appropriate, isn't "real" change, is well intentioned but misguided, etc. Sure, this is a very minor step but that doesn't mean it is without merit. How can we tackle the big stuff when we can't even change some words we use?

Ultimately, I'm not going to die on this hill. I just want you to ask yourselves why such a minor change is producing this much friction. Is your life going to be impacted by this change? Probably not. Even so, would you rather belong to a society pushing to be better with its language vs. one that would rather continue using the racist artifacts of the past? Which one is likely to be the morally correct one?

Nobody alive today created these terms. We learned about them without their racist connotations. We use them without racist intent. However, none of this absolves the society that created the terms or the terms themselves. We know better now and it's time to change.

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So why does black then correlate to people with a darker skin color and white to people with a brighter skin color? Where does it stop, where does it start? You say this is a straw man argument. Yet, it is not.

Yes

No. I am a woman. I stumble upon a lot of things which are intended to be good for us. Like always using a female and a male phrase of a word all the time. This interrupts the flow of reading and just creates friction. I, as a woman, do not gain anything from this. It is not the same but still similar to some extend.

It is more than a simple change. It is on the order of being able to break virtually all external user scripts. I would not like to say that this is nothing. Yes, users can adapt their scripts. Yet it is a distraction and breaking something without any striving need to.

Seriously, this is the straw man argument. I am with you about "John". However, you are currently depriving black people of their names. I don't know where you live but over here we call black people by their names. They may be called Daniel or Susan. I would never call them "Mr. Black". So your argument is entirely void. Their name is not abused for anything.

This discussion has to come to an end. And this does not mean something needs to be changed. I know a lot of black people and I'm not 100% white myself. I discussed this issue with my friends and even partially (disconnected to Pi-hole) with family members and they feel no issues at all with blacklists and similar terms. However, they feel really bad with all the people coming out of the woodwork and patronizing for them. Telling that using the term "black" is not good. Some say because it is racist. Some say it is something from the past. Yet, nobody can understand our feelings. At least nobody involved in this discussion trying to patronize yet again with a wall-of-text of why they think the world can be made better in this and that direction.

And, please, this has nothing to do with the black-live-matters debate. The United States of Whitemerica have entirely different problems which are entirely unrelated here.

Seriously, it is just really annoying. Nobody seems to understand that it is the continuous discussion about what the white men can do for the black men that is the problem here. We could very well speak up for ourselves if we would have to.

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Coro's reply is not a "solution", it's simply giving some xyz reason to ignore the problem. I believe the community is at fault, see more issues stated clearly and ignored nearly immediately and then the thread locked with the reason that there's an "existing issue" (circling back to Coro's "solution"!) https://www.reddit.com/r/pihole/comments/jypfkz/serious_pihole_and_its_community_stance_on/

Warning of all warnings.

If you try to bring reddit in to this I'll lock the whole thing. I don't want or need that taking over our support channels.

Edit: If you believe the community is at fault then please find another community.