Merriam-Webster is revising its entry on racism after a recent college graduate in Missouri, inspired by the protests and debates about what it means to be racist, urged the editors to expand the definition to include systemic racism https://t.co/YCwietSpkQ— The New York Times (@nytimes) June 10, 2020
Having gotten into many a conversation about racism and injustice where people kept whipping out dictionary definitions of racism to dismiss her, Missouri woman Kennedy Mitchum emailed the publishers of Merriam-Webster to tell them she thought their definition of racism was lacking. And they emailed back that they agreed and are now in the process of updating the definition. In the past, definitions have been short due to print limitations, but that's not as much of a concern with the internet/online versions. The dictionary gets updated/revised about 2-3 times a year so the new definition will probably appear in the next revision.
Their definition at the time: 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 doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles / a political or social system founded on racism
"I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world. 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," said Mitchum about these arguments.
After receiving word that Merriam-Webster would update the definition: “I was super happy because I really felt like that was a step in a good direction for a lot of positive change for a lot of different positive conversations that can really help change the world and helps change how people view things.”
"I think we can express this more clearly to bring the idea of an asymmetrical power structure into the language of this definition, but it's there," said editor at large Peter Sokolowski. "The mission for [Noah] Webster himself, you know, back in his first dictionary in 1806, was to essentially present the current active vocabulary of American English and that's still our mission today."
Celebrity reactions (please spare me your definition of celebrity) to qualify the post
Actress Susan Kelechi Watson (This is Us)
MSNBC Host Ali Velshi
The dictionary’s decades-old definition of “racism” is being updated, thanks to @DrakeUniversity grad Kennedy Mitchum. She told @MerriamWebster that racism is “prejudice combined w/ social & institutional power.” She joins me on @maddow to explain the power of the new wording.— Ali Velshi (@AliVelshi) June 11, 2020
Poet Pritish Nandy
MSNBC Contributor/Author Jill Wine-Banks
This is a great redefinition of #antifa. Just like the needed redefinition of racism by #MerriamWebster to include systemic oppression, thanks to a recent college grad asking for the change. TY #KennedyMitchum Mitchum, a recent graduate of Drake University in Iowa. https://t.co/saK7y5qp4W— Jill Wine-Banks (@JillWineBanks) June 11, 2020
Game Show Host Chuck Woolery
Merriam-Webster To Change Dictionary Definition of “Racism” to Show Only White People are Racist https://t.co/5foa6JF4Jy— Chuck Woolery (@chuckwoolery) June 11, 2020