Everyone at the Table
Everyone at the Table is a series that explores everyday topics from the perspective of people... with different perspectives!
Good morning from New York City and welcome to Everyone at the Table. I am Hady Mendez, your host and the global lead for Cloudflare's Latinx employee resource group.
Everyone at the Table is a series that brings together people from around the company to explore everyday topics from the perspective of people with different perspectives.
To make sure everyone has an equal opportunity to speak and have their voice heard, I will be serving as today's moderator.
And as a reminder to all of our viewers, we will be taking your questions at live studio at Cloudflare.tv.
So today on our show, we are going to be talking about inclusive terminology as well as inclusive language.
For years, there have been a multitude of advocates encouraging the use of more inclusiveness and getting rid of words like whitelisting or using flight attendant instead of stewardess, using the word humankind instead of mankind, or replacing the word waiter or waitress with the word server.
I'm kind of curious, does it really matter? What's in a word? I'm kind of curious to hear what the panel has to say.
So we're going to be diving right in.
I'd like to welcome the panel to today's show. And I'd like to just start off by having you share your name, your title, and tell us what office you work in.
Fallon, would you like to get us started? Sure. So Fallon Blossom here. I'm a multimedia content designer in the Austin office.
Awesome. Welcome to the show, Fallon.
Alejandro? Hi, I'm Alejandro and I work in the security risk management team in the San Francisco office at Cloudflare.
Bienvenido, Alejandro. Mickey? Hi, I'm Mickey.
I'm a systems engineer in the Austin office. Great. Welcome to the show, Mickey.
So welcome to all of you. And like I said, I think we need to just dive right in.
So I talked about inclusive terminology and inclusive language, and I know there's a difference.
So let's start with inclusive terminology. What is it? And what exactly is inclusive terminology trying to address?
Don't be shy.
Yeah. So, I mean, inclusive terminology, like, focuses on trying to like, it's more like focused on towards like a technical, like in a more technical context, like the language used in like tech.
Like, for example, there is this organization called IETF, the Internet Engineering Task Force, that develops a lot of the protocols used in the Internet.
And that's one way that a lot of the like technical terminology is like defined.
So like inclusive terminology is trying to look at like these terms that have been used historically in technology or like in a more like technical context.
And then trying to make sure they are not trying to make sure that the terms used are chosen very carefully.
And they're clear, accurate, and they do not like distract like specific groups from what we're trying to communicate through those terms.
Yeah, I see inclusive terminology and language as being very co -aligned.
And I think the mission is like words matter, right?
Like the language we use creates the world that we live in. And it's people asking for our humanity to be put first.
And that's in the terms we use when talking about each other.
And also the words that we use when we're talking about the products we build and the tech that we use.
And just like it matters because we're people.
Like language is used within people. So language, when discussing anything, is a means of communication.
And because of that, just making sure that people feel like they belong and they feel like their, yeah, that their humanity is put first.
I love that. Yeah, I agree with everything everyone said.
And for me, the language is a function of being inclusive. You know, just as Miki said, the idea of inclusivity is, are we making everyone that is here feel the most welcome, the most comfortable, the most safe so they can show up authentically?
And how we describe things, how we write about things, all of that stuff shows up at work in the world.
So just being clear on having a baseline of common terminology, common words that we've all agreed that work for everyone, for the most people, is kind of how I think about inclusivity and inclusive terminology as a function of inclusivity because to me they're linked.
I hear that. Thank you for that.
I want to talk a little bit about what are some examples of the terminology that needs to change.
And, you know, something about like what are some possible options?
I know that a very common one that people talk about is this whole like slave master.
And I have to tell you that that's like my, that's the one that really rubs me the wrong way.
You know, I don't like grandfather, you know, like the word grandfather.
Like, you know, I can appreciate where that is not inclusive, but this slave master one is the one that kind of makes my stomach turn a little.
And, you know, like it just the imagery that comes with those words is very strong.
And like it kind of like it's a little bit, it's a little bit triggering.
I'm not going to lie. So I'm curious to hear what are some other examples of these terms that need to change.
And, you know, kind of what are some options that people are throwing on the table?
I agree on the master slave. I think it's come under fire recently.
And so rightfully so. It's so obviously egregious in my mind that it doesn't even warrant a conversation.
And there's so many, I think, clearer terms.
And that's, I think, part of this conversation is mentioning that it's a win-win to replace these tech terms.
So some of the proposals for like the replacement of that is primary replica or primary secondary.
And like, then you understand what it means in this technical sense, right?
It's perfectly normal.
Yeah. So in that vein, there's also master branch. And some alternatives are main branch or prod.
Again, primary, depending on how you have your Git flow set up.
And I think just to counter, like there's been some pushback on the master branch.
And I just want to like give a little spiel or piece here, which is, I think, you know, some people want to see the good intent in something.
And they say master, like master copy, right?
It may not have these origins rooted in something problematic. There is a history around master branch, and it is rooted in slavery terminology.
Git was based on BitKeeper, which used master slave terminology.
So for anyone who's just even going to put up a small fight, it's not worth it.
Its origins are rooted in problematic terms.
And we can like do better. Absolutely. And the words sound like what you said sounded, like you said, makes more sense, much more clear.
Perfectly acceptable replacement.
Were you going to say something, Fallon? No, but I can add.
The master slave thing was new to me coming to technology because I came to tech from education.
So, I mean, most of the inclusive terminology that I have more experience with and kind of have been working on with myself are how to refer to people, how to refer to human beings in a way that honors their humanity, sanctuaries their humanity.
So stuff like differently abled is a new one for me that I've been trying to make sure that I kind of add to my idiolect, add, you know, and insert in there pretty, pretty good.
I've been trying to also be a lot more gender inclusive by replacing certain vowels with X.
So like with women, W-O-M-X-N, to be inclusive of our trans sisters.
So those types of terms and terminology are the ones that kind of come up for me most often.
But whitelist, blacklist is the first thing that kind of came to mind for me.
And kind of using allow list, deny list instead, I think seems better just because of the connotation behind colors.
Ideally, we would just say colors and they're not meaning anything.
But because socially we've equated colors to people, we got to be more careful.
And it's clear, allow and block list, allow and deny list.
It's the function that we're identifying. Yes, it describes what it does.
Yes, yes. Yeah, exactly. I agree because like this reminds me of like when I was starting school, like I was doing a cybersecurity program at Merritt College, which is like home of the Black Panther Party and a lot of civil rights movements.
And like the program itself is like really diverse. So like having to learn these terms in the classroom was like kind of like weird because like I'm also like not a native English speaker.
So, you know, the professor had to like explain what these terms meant.
So the fact that they have to like spend some time and they even have to like quiz you about the definition of these terms gives you like a hint that maybe we're not using like the most accurate terms that we should be using.
So, yeah, definitely like, you know, I think we should use like more clear and accurate terms, but make it easier for everybody.
Yeah. So where, so I'm just kind of curious, like, I know Cloudflare has like a movement to try and really kind of improve terminology in the language we use, but in generally in tech, who is leading this effort?
And like, are most people in tech supportive of these changes?
So, yeah, like, I guess, like I was saying, like, well, one of, like I was saying, like the IETF, the Internet Engineering Task Force, you know, is like the, like the organization that defines a lot of terminology in tech.
So, like, I found like a draft on like terminology, like oppressive terminology.
It was written in 2018, and then it started gaining more momentum again.
That draft, like when you publish a draft, it has to be like reviewed by other people, like in the IETF, and then it has to be like approved.
But that draft didn't make it to, didn't get like published officially.
So like now it gained some more momentum now.
But I guess some of the people, I mean, there are like now a lot of more companies like supporting, supportive of this, like the Linux Foundation.
I know they published like a few changes that they're going to make to get like Microsoft done.
I also had like a friend who's working for another security company, and they're also working on changing the language in their products.
That's good to hear. I really see the driver as the general population.
Like this wouldn't be possible, I don't think, without this groundswell of interest from people right now.
So, for example, I'm thinking about, you know, all the black squares I saw on Instagram and social media and companies who came up with general statements of support of Black Lives Matter a few months ago.
And I really can't personally fathom them having done that even a few years ago.
I think that they felt pressured to do better. And so this pressure of the general population asking companies to do better is what I see the driver.
But I want to be clear, I don't think this is like a new initiative.
I think general populations have been asking and evolving what language they want us to use for a long time.
There's been some renewed interest in the past few years. But, yeah, I see us as the drivers, like us asking companies to do better.
Yeah, I could see that for sure.
I've had similar experiences. I feel like in the past it was more like the woke people or the people who were, like, considerate and thoughtful were like, hey, why don't we use words that are more inclusive?
And now it's like the general population is on the bandwagon.
So I feel like, you know, Miki, I'm agreeing with you that I think it's extended beyond, like, the considerate people.
Well, it's not just the considerate people. It's the people who are most affected by this harmful language.
And, you know, marginalized folks have been marginalized since the beginning of time.
But who is the most marginalized changes over time?
So differently-abled folks have been asking for inclusivity for years, but being ignored because their cries weren't considered to be important.
Black folks are being heard now. Black Lives Matter. Shout out to this Black Design Studio for my earring.
You know, people are listening to us now because they saw someone get killed, saw another person get killed after years of seeing black folks get killed and, you know, tortured and murdered.
And so, I mean, I just want to be clear that, you know, this wasn't just by choice.
This is because people are seeing horrendous things. People are experiencing horrendous things on a very frustrated and tired of being ignored and silent.
And language being used as a function of that subjugation. Yeah, you're right.
I think where I was coming at it from was that it was the thoughtful and considerate people that were actually listening to the people who were crying out and saying, hey, like, you know, could you, like, refer to us in a different way?
Or could you, like, consider changing this?
But now a lot more people are listening.
So it's kind of changing things in a meaningful way. I want to kind of redirect and pivot a little to just talk, turn our attention a little bit to, and Fallon, you actually mentioned some examples earlier about inclusive language.
So I'm just curious, you know, how, to me, inclusive language is kind of a broader term and includes a lot more than just obviously the tech stuff that we've been talking about.
What do you all think about the differences? And maybe a little bit about what are your thoughts as it relates to the renewed energy?
So we've all, I think, agree that like this is bigger than just a couple of people now it's broad.
It's a lot of people saying, hey, yeah, I don't want to be referred to that way.
You know, like those terms are really offensive to me. So how do you feel about the, or what are your thoughts about the renewed energy that we're seeing these days?
Oh, go ahead.
You can go ahead. Okay. I think it's, it's generally very positive. I also think it's one of many things we need to do.
So I'm personally like a little hesitant that it can be used as a placating measure.
Like this is not addressing systemic, you know, discrimination, any root issue problems that we have.
It is in my mind, it is the beginning of constructing the world that we want to have and that we want to see.
So I think, I think it's great positive momentum.
I just also don't want us to stop at this. I agree. I hear you. Yeah, no, that's a, that's a, that's a really good point.
Cause like this is just targeting like specific like issue of there, there are like so many like broader problems regarding like discrimination.
But yeah, like, I think like just this energy or like revive, like energy, like really at least help like provide like enough pressure, like, like, like Mickey was saying, for like companies to actually like make this change now, at least like in terminology, you know, that's like one small change.
But at least, you know, like, you know, we continue like pushing to like, you know, put this pressure on like to society as a whole, like we can like continue like making like broader changes that actually tackle like the issue, like the real problem.
I agree with what everybody else has said. I like, you know, anybody who knows me, I like pulling stuff from the root.
So changing the words that we mean that we use when we describe things is not necessarily pulling it from the root, but it's a necessary step to pull it from the root.
Maybe we're trimming, pulling the weed.
I don't know. My analogy is falling apart. But you know, when I think about this type of stuff, yeah, for me, I always want the systemic change.
So like, cool. If you know, everybody decides to get on board with inclusive terminology and we create a system about like how we can continue to always be inclusive with our terminology.
For me, that will feel a lot better than just saying, Oh, we're going to change these words.
You know, I came to the tech from education and so for me, I kind of go back to education and there are folks in other countries, for example, in Kazakhstan, who are completely revamping and changing their whole education system to be inclusive.
But even after that's being measured and looked at for its efficacy, they're still saying we need to focus on changing the systems that allow these non-inclusive terms to exist and thrive for so long.
This is a very early initiative that's happening on this larger scale.
So let's make sure that as we're doing this, we're building a foundation that is scalable, replicable, all the good tech things.
So yeah, that's where I'm at with it.
I hear you. And I concur. If, if, if it's just a change in language and not the change in the actions and the opportunities and the access, then it's really just performative and, you know, it's not worth anything.
So it has to go hand in hand with a lot of the other pieces.
I love this. I know. Like I wish the whole world felt this way.
Right. Like, wouldn't that be nice? So great. I really appreciate it.
Tell me a little bit about how do you think, so, so I started off the program and I was kind of being a little facetious because I was like, what's in a word who cares?
Like how we, you know, but I was, I was definitely kidding.
So, but I am kind of curious, you know, and I just said, Hey, wouldn't it be great if the whole world felt like this?
I don't think that they, they do. What do you think?
How do you think the movement is perceived more generally? Do you think there are a lot of people still out there just like naysayers or people just really saying like, Oh, this is just like PC stuff.
You know, like, don't, don't bother me with this, these things.
Or do you think, you know, we've, we've said, I think we all agreed also that a lot more people are subscribing to this thought process.
So, so where do you think the movement is and how do you think it's being perceived generally?
Well, I think I try to lean with hope.
So I would hope that there's a very small percentage of folks who are just so anti this, that they can't be converted.
I think more people, most folks are just confused about it.
Change is hard. Right. And for some folks who've kind of, who don't necessarily have exposure to a lot of different people, things and ways of being and lifestyles, they have been feeling left off left behind.
However, I think that having these types of conversations, being open and honest and transparent about why things are wrong and why they should be changed could actually move, move things forward.
It's unfortunate that the naysayers tend to get most of the airtime because there are a lot of wonderful people who've been shouting into a void for a long time who didn't have the platform that they deserve.
So again, I try to leave with hope.
So my hope is that folks are just confused and they don't see themselves in it and they don't necessarily understand why it's important.
Yeah. You know, I'm thinking about our older ILDs, especially.
But I think like, you know, most younger -ish folks could be convinced and told like, Hey, actually like, yeah, it is uncomfortable, but imagine how comfortable it is to be misgendered.
Imagine how uncomfortable it is to be called out your name.
So, you know, that empathy piece is the thing that goes a long way with wrapping your head around this and turning a corner on this.
I think. Yeah. I have a few thoughts.
It's hard for me to know how the general population perceives something, right?
I, I probably am in an echo chamber. And I think we have a lot more polarized media and social media.
I think there's certainly a group of people who feel like this is trivial, like this isn't worth spending any time or energy on.
And I find that argument kind of counterintuitive because if it's trivial, it's not that hard to change, right?
Like if it's really minimal, just do it. Like that's my counter argument.
I also think there's a group of people that like language evolves, right?
Like web search dictionary gets updated every year. And I think there's a group of well-intentioned people that are trying their best, but have outdated information.
Like I'm just thinking about certain terms that have changed over my lifetime and so they'll use what is now maybe a dated term.
That's no longer considered the most appropriate way to speak about, you know, community or group of people.
And if they're called out, they feel defensive because they actually were trying based on this outdated information.
So I think everything fall inside like trying to lead with empathy and grow together because language evolves, it's going to keep evolving and we're going to be wrong at some point about how we speak and admitting to our mistakes and trying to move forward.
These are deeply embedded habits. I think it took me years not to say guys, like literally years.
So anytime I mess up, you know, just trying again and admitting that it's okay that I'm not trying to be offensive or exclusionary.
But yeah, I think, I think trying to pull people together and in this change was probably the best way to do it.
Yeah. And just from my experience, I think it was kind of interesting because we're all like in the, in the U S like these changes, at least like the most recent changes in terminology, like in tech, we're getting a lot of support.
But I was, I'm also like part of like other like groups like in like Linux and the Spaniel of like, you know, Latin American, groups of like Spanish speakers that have like interest like in tech and like Linux.
And it was interesting to see like the backlash on those groups.
You know, it was really, it made me upset.
Cause like, you know, like Nikki was saying, like these changes are trivial.
So like I don't get why people are like trying to argue against this. Yeah.
A lot of resistance. Hey, I have a quick question. Is this a movement in Spanish too?
So it is, but I see a lot more backlash, which is sad. Then like in then like in, in the U S or like other places.
At least in social media. Yeah. And it's even more important because Spanish is actually a very masculine, feminine language.
So you assign a gender to two things more in Spanish than you do in English.
So it's probably even more necessary. I have two more questions and we were almost out of time.
So I wanted to give you guys an opportunity to tell me the term that you hate the most, or you dislike the most.
That is not inclusive. Mine is inner city kid.
I remember when someone was using the word inner city kid and I remember the, the, the moment that I realized that I was one of them.
So do you have any like really like, Ooh, I don't like that word.
Uh, the N word. By far the worst thing you can call me.
I know that. I do have one like in Spanish, uh, like in Mexico, it's funny.
Because like Mexico is like 70 or 80% like mixed race. Uh, we like indigenous people, but they use India, which means like indigenous to like say that somebody is dumb or like, sorry, that's actually not very inclusive either.
Uh, but like, that's like the word that I hate the most.
Cause it's like, you hear people that are descendant of indigenous people saying that word.
And it's just, it's not nice.
How about you, Mickey? Any, Oh, wow. I, the one that comes to mind is so much less egregious than the ones y'all have mentioned, but guys is just used so frequently.
And it's just like a little, little paper cut each time of hearing it. Um, So let's, it's just the one that comes to mind.
So let's turn it around and thank you all.
So let's turn it around. And I want to hear what some of your favorite inclusive terms of words are.
So Alejandro, let's start with you. Yeah. So I guess, uh, like, like you said, like, um, Spanish is like, very like masculine, uh, focus, uh, language.
So like, what I'd like to use the, the app, it's not a word in specific, but I like to use the app whenever I'm referring to, like, uh, when, when we say like, uh, ninos, I use the app instead of instead of, uh, having to write the word with an O, which means you're like, you're like Fallon, except she uses the X.
What's your, what's your favorite inclusive term or word? Well, I've been using this word since I was a child, since I'm from New Orleans, y'all the best word.
How about you, Mickey?
What's your favorite word? I'm seconding y'all. It took me a while.
Cause I'm from California. I felt like an imposter, but I'm all on the y'all train.
Mine is Latin X for the record, if anyone asks. Um, so on that note, thank you so much, guys.
I really appreciated the conversation. I'm sure we could have kept talking about this for a really long time, but I appreciate it.
And I think this is really important and I appreciate your perspective and, um, and knowledge.
So next week on the program, we're going to be talking to folks about how to stay positive, experience joy, and even find reasons to celebrate during these uncertain times.
So we can all use some tips for remaining positive.
That's going to be next week. Um, on our program again, I want to thank everybody for coming today, joining us and everyone at the table where your point of view is valued, appreciated, and heard.
See you next week.