(The Center Square) – The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a federal and science technology office, has made race and gender speech codes for its scientists a top priority.
The guidance, for example, tells federal employees not to use the words “blacklist” or “whitelist” because of the racial connotations and also cautions against “using terms that assign a gender to inanimate objects, such as male/female connectors.”
The NIST is a little-known government agency tasked with helping the U.S., among other things, stay technologically ahead of rivals like China. Congress appropriated about $1.65 billion for the group for 2023.
The NIST is one of many federal agencies putting its attention and taxpayer funds into these efforts as it struggles to keep pace with its key mission. The NIST sparked controversy for its “Inclusive Language Guidance,” which tells scientists which words or phrases they can or cannot use in reports.
From the document:
- Consider that biased terms, such as blacklist/whitelist, also may introduce comprehension issues.
- Avoid terms such as master/slave that perpetuate negative stereotypes or unequal power relationships.
- Avoid identifying an individual’s gender unless necessary for comprehension, or using terms that assign a gender to inanimate objects, such as male/female connectors.
- Avoid descriptive terms that are condescending or reductive in favor of language that the groups being described would prefer.
Steven Lipner, chair of the Congressionally authorized Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board, sent a letter to NIST in 2020 recommending the whitelist and blacklist changes as well as the changes for master and slave usage.
“Many technology and security standards contain racially insensitive language that is both offensive to many of our colleagues and is also, in many respects, ambiguous – technically and culturally,” the letter said. “Examples of such language include using the terms blacklist and whitelist instead of block-list and allow-list and using the terms master and slave.”
Jennifer Huergo, a spokesperson for NIST, told The Center Square the guidance “was created primarily for the benefit of NIST staff experts who participate in the development of documentary standards as expert collaborators and leaders.”
“Use of inclusive language helps to avoid potential gaps in understanding that could arise from the use of colloquial or idiomatic expressions that are rooted in particular historical events or regional dialects,” she said.
The NIST’s DEI office also promotes liberal ideas around gender and sexuality. The DEI staff page features the preferred pronouns of its employees as the first priority in the bios.
The issue has regularly been thrust into the forefront because while Americans are largely split on the debate over gender identity and critical race theory, federal agencies have largely embraced it and put millions of taxpayer dollars behind it.
A Pew Research report released last summer found that while most Americans say there is discrimination against transgender people, “60% say a person’s gender is determined by their sex assigned at birth, up from 56% in 2021 and 54% in 2017.”
The NIST speech code also links to the American Psychological Association’s webpage on “biased language,” which goes on at length about the myriad of possible genders, and the need to cater to them.
“Transgender is used as an adjective to refer to persons whose gender identity, expression, and/or role does not conform to what is culturally associated with their sex assigned at birth,” APA says. “Some transgender people hold a binary gender, such as man or woman, but others have a gender outside of this binary, such as gender-fluid or nonbinary. Individuals whose gender varies from presumptions based on their sex assigned at birth may use terms other than ‘transgender’ to describe their gender, including ‘gender-nonconforming,’ ‘genderqueer,’ ‘gender-nonbinary,’ ‘gender-creative,’ ‘agender,’ or ‘two-spirit,’ to name a few.”
The taxpayer-funded speech guidelines also quote racial theory from a book written by Tukufu Zuberi, a professor of Race Relations and Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania steeped in critical race theory. The book is titled “White Logic, White Methods.” Zuberi also penned an article titled, “Critical Race Theory: A Commemoration.”
While the U.S. is a world-leader in developing intellectual property, it lags behind in the ability to manufacture it. For example, the source of electric batteries, seen as the future of the green energy movement, is largely overseas. In fact, China made about three quarters of the world’s lithium ion batteries in 2021, while the U.S. made only 7%.