Merriam-Webster, America’s venerated publisher of dictionaries, announced this week that it would be redefining the word “racism” to allow for a more broad and “systemic” definition.
According to KMOV-TV, Kennedy Mitchum, a recent college graduate from Missouri complained to the 189-year-old publisher in light of recent controversy surrounding the deaths of several black American civilians at the hands of police officers.
“With everything going on, I think it’s important everyone is on the same page,” Mitchum told the outlet, explaining that she feels the current definition of the word does not go far enough.
“So, a couple weeks ago, I said this is the last argument I’m going to have about this,” she said. “I know what racism is, I’ve experienced it time and time and time again in a lot of different ways, so enough is enough. So, I emailed [Merriam-Webster] about how I felt about it. Saying this needs to change.”
“I basically told them they need to include that there is systematic oppression on people,” the Drake University grad went on. “It’s not just ‘I don’t like someone,’ it’s a system of oppression for a certain group of people.”
As of this writing, the current definition of racism according to Merriam-Webster is:
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
2a: 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
After Mitchum emailed the publisher, she received a response from editor Alex Chambers, who wrote: “While our focus will always be on faithfully reflecting the real-world usage of a word, not on promoting any particular viewpoint, we have concluded that omitting any mention of the systemic aspects of racism promotes a certain viewpoint in itself.”
Chambers revealed that a “revision” is coming soon.
“Chambers said they could not give a date on upcoming publications but that a revision should be expected in the coming months,” KMOV-TV reported.
“This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem,” she said. “We sincerely thank you for repeatedly writing in and apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address the issue sooner. I will see to it that the entry for racism is given the attention it sorely needs.”
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