With organisations giving more focus to concerns about inclusion and diversity in the workplace everyone’s minds having recently been focussed on the brutal treatment of people of minority backgrounds and with a global focus on the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The emailexpert team found ourselves wondering what changes we might be able to make as an industry. With people everywhere started asking what can I do? What can we do as an organisation, as a company?
We hoped there could be a rallying call for positive action, action that would have the potential for a long lasting a positive improvement on the way we view colour.
There is in fact something that the email community could do that was relatively simple, quantifiable, measurable and would have positive impact. That would be to address the use of our language which is so often racist, often without malice of forethought. Two of the most prevalent of the racist terms being whitelist and blacklist.
Such terminology not only reflects racist culture, but also serves to reinforce, legitimize, and perpetuate it.“Blacklists” and “whitelists”: a salutary warning concerning the prevalence of racist language in discussions of predatory publishing. Published 2018 by Frank Houghton, Sharon Houghton
Whilst systemic racism cannot be undone with the simple change of a few words, the process of change does raise awareness. The impact may be hard to measure. Changing words is simply the start of the conversation about diversity and representation in our industry and workplace.
Organisations need to be addressing other issues about diversity and creating a safe welcoming community for individuals of all backgrounds.
Dropping of the use of these terms is starting the conversation about language, diversity and inclusion. The dropping of the terms are tentative steps in the right direction.
The wider tech community has already taken this on board.
In June GitHub announced it would abandon the use of Master/Slave terminology, it was reported the Google Chrome team is moving away from using the terms “blacklist” and “whitelist.”
Language matters and this is a call to end the use of the terms blacklist and whitelist.
This is also an invitation to join wider discussion about language, inclusion and representation.
No one using the terms intends to be using racist language or terms and many if not most have never given it any thought. Our co-Founder asked around on Twitter and we got quite the response, there was massive support for the idea, many acknowledged they were not aware of the issue and acknowledged they had been part of the problem and resolving to do better in future.
There was lots of support and discussion across the industry
- Adobe Campaign: reached out privately to our call to action and promised to start making the changes starting with deliverability.
Alyssa Nahatis already provided us with a copy of their updated Deliverability Guide for 2020 with the Changes Reflected
- PepiPost: Have started to change some the terminology
- Pure 360: Komal Helyer and the team have lent significant support
- SparkPost: Have committed to a whole host of changes as an organisation and should be saluted
- Invaluement: Updated their forums and pages to remove the terms
- SendXmail: committed as below
Some even attempted to make updates to Wiki that were rejected.
Cloudmark suggest dropping whitelist
Other biased expressions
What can you do?
If you work in email you can start the conversation in your workplace. We have found often times it is enough to just bring it up, and point out the obvious alternatives that many would consider more apt in any case for an organisation to start switching the language and terms it uses on internal and external documents. Certainly in the case of bl*cklist we found little resistance to the change. You can point your employers and colleagues to this page.
Host a mirror of this page on your own site or blog, no permission required.
Easily let others know about the call to action on Twitter
The text content on this page is available for you to freely share, no acknowledgement specifically required. If you would like to customise the promo graphics above with your own hosted page details and contact etc, you are free to access and edit the template here: