Merriam Webster Adjusts The Definition Of Racism After A Request

  • AUTHOR: dua
  • POSTED ON: June 11, 2020

The American dictionary
is changing its definition of racism after an email was received from a young
black woman.

If the recent events
are to be taken into account, the young woman’s request makes complete sense.
Kennedy Mitchum sent out an email to Merriam-Webster and argued that the
definition of racism is incomplete without the inclusion of systemic
oppression. The editor onboard has
agreed to make adjustments.

The event that led to
this update in the definition is, of course, the cold-blooded murder of George
Floyd and the subsequent protests across the world. The deceased was put to
death by a cruel white police officer who held his knee on his neck for almost
nine minutes.

When the protests
emerged, racist people used the definition available on Merriam-Webster to
prove that they were not racist. The previous definition didn’t explain the
broader issues because of which people failed to recognize the racial
inequality present in society.

Current definition on

1.      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

2.      (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

3.      racial
prejudice or discrimination

While speaking to BBC,
Kennedy Mitchum said that she first became aware of the faulty definition four
years ago.

was just speaking on my social media about racism and just about how the things
I was experiencing in my own school and my own college. There were a lot of
things that were racist, but it wasn’t as blatant.”

– She said.

She added: “Some
troll was messaging me trying to say ‘You don’t understand what racism truly

were saying: ‘You’re in school, so what do you mean? You have privileges as
well’. I said it’s not about that, it’s about the hurdles that I had to jump
over because of the color of my skin and the systems that are in place.”

Basically, people began
to use the definition as evidence to prove her wrong. They justified their
discrimination and considered themselves not racist because the definition was

Hence, on 28th
May, Mitchum emailed the website and explained the issue: “both prejudice combined with social and
institutional power. It is a system of advantage based on skin color”.

was surprised to receive a response the next day.

Source: The Daily Dot

Sokolowski is the editorial manager of Merriam-Webster who approved the request
and told BBC that he would be expanding the second definition further.

“It could be
expanded … to include the term systemic and it will certainly have one or two
example sentences, at least.”

The website will be
consulting with the work of experts in black studies, and hopefully, the
changes could be seen by August. 

Updated June 11, 2020
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