It’s easy to just accept the status quo even when it’s harmful because that’s just how it’s always been done. Discrimination in the tech industry is no different. The reuse and amplification of discriminatory language can have damaging effects on those within the industry, as well as in other physical spaces. It adds to the barriers that prevent folks from even trying to participate because they think that they don’t belong.
Using technology to challenge how concepts are labeled can help break down those barriers and drive inclusivity. Changing how practitioners label concepts like Whitelist/Blacklist and Master/Slave makes the tech industry more inclusive internally. We can also use technology to uncover remnants of discrimination in the analog world. Thousands of geographic places across the country have official names that are racist like Negro Run and Squaw Creek. They are now easy to find using services like Google Maps. When those names are changed, everyone can see the update immediately.
Old baggage has a way of sticking around when new systems are built using legacy data. Regardless of my role in organizations, I look for ways to turn that around and cleanup some of those remnants of systematic discrimination. I will highlight two of those experiences where I have been able to make small changes with big impact by ensuring inclusive language in voting securing standards and changing the racist name of a river using a mapping service. I hope you see that you too can make small changes that make a difference at scale.