Merriam-Webster Dictionary Is Changing the Definition of ‘Racism’
Change is happening. And I am so happy to see it happening.
As I'm sure you're aware, there have been protests taking place across the country over George Floyd's death, public officials have stated that police culture is being reevaluated, and now the definition of racism itself is being redefined.
It all started with 22-year-old Kennedy Mitchum, a recent graduate student at Drake University in Iowa.
Ms. Mitchum reached out to the editors of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and suggested that the phrase "systematic oppression" be included in the definition of the word "racism".
This is what Merriam-Webster Dictionary's current definition of racism:
- a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
- a) a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles, b) a political or social system founded on racism
- racial prejudice or discrimination
"I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world," said Mitchum. "The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice - it's the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans."
Merriam-Webster editor, Alex Chambers, exchanged multiple emails with Kennedy and agreed that the definition should be updated.
"This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem," said Chambers in an email provided to CNN. "We sincerely thank you for repeatedly writing in and apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner."
I know as a white woman, I cannot personally speak on what it is like to be on the receiving end of hatred and racism. However, I'm so happy to see that change is happening. It needed to happen.