On GitHub's decision to change the name of the primary branch

I feel disheartened when I look at what is going on in the world right now. I am neither naive nor experienced. But I expect of myself that I can make, at a basic level, sense of things. Yet, after thirty years of living, I fail to understand the quickness with which we fell down this slippery slope of self-destruction.

Everything is an either/or pair. There is no more nuance. You are a target of the mob. There are no more shades of grey in conversations and no interest in the art of thoughtful disagreements.

I do not advocate for tolerating the agitators. But I also do not believe we are all as such.

This brings me to the main idea of this rant.

I have been programming for the most part of the last decade. If you are active in this world, you may have heard about GitHub’s recent decision to change the name from “master” to “main” branch. I applaud the effort and I understand the rationale behind it. However, I do not endorse the way it is enforced.

I am a Romanian. For most of my programmer’s life, I have relied on GitHub’s software to help me in my endeavors. But not even once, have I associated the word “master” to its semantic racist roots. I fail to consider I am alone in this thinking. This is because, culturally speaking, I do not have the same background as others (which also means that I have to be thoughtful and sensitive to others').

In light of this rationale, I do not appreciate this being enforced on me. I do acknowledge the semantic link to a time when life was different based on your skin color. I also acknowledge you can work in distributed teams, where success as a group relies on being respectful to others’ backgrounds, identities, and cultures. Just to be clear, I am not advocating against the idea of changing the name of the primary branch. But I do advocate against pushing this change as the right solution for every person/team using GitHub. I believe a group of well-intentioned people can sort this out by themselves, especially if it is insensitive towards some of the group members. If not, you have issues that a simple name change will not solve anyway. It also strikes me as “funny” how this was accepted for so many years, until now (might have something to do with the current situation in the U.S?).

I believe a better approach is to allow changing the name in the project’s settings. That way, every individual/team can choose something that will consensually and accurately represent their views. You want to influence the way people think about racism. I do not believe enforcing a name change will do that across cultures.

Food for thought: if it were only about the naming, how come “White House” or “Mastercard” are still called like that? There is a world of semantics and a world of extremes.

Be respectful of others. Treat their identities, their cultures, and their backgrounds with equal value. I suspect this is harder to educate upon oneself and others, but vastly more efficient than renaming GitHub’s primary branch mainly because a major country is subdued by riots and internal distress.

First note: it appears other people share similar views.

Second note: I am genuinely interest in having thoughtful conversation on this topic. This rules out any form of conversational attack. Hit me up on Twitter if you want to talk.