US Dictionary Plans To Change The Definition Of Racism At One Woman's Request
Meriam-Webster announced it plans to change the definition of racism and that editors are currently working on a revised version that includes systematic racism and possibly other views. The decision to change the definition came as a Drake University student, Kennedy Mitchum, wrote in requesting the change. Mitchum, a 22-year-old black woman said that the current definition doesn't accurately define racism.
“Racism is not only prejudice against a certain race due to the color of a persons skin, as it states in your dictionary,” she wrote. “It is both prejudice combined with social and institutional power. It is a system of advantage based on skin color.”
Alex Chambers, an editor at the dictionary, said that he and his colleagues revise definitions or add new ones “when we see large-scale changes happening in the language.”
After several more exchanges, in which Ms. Mitchum questioned whether their sources reflected a diverse society, Mr. Chambers confirmed that the dictionary would revise the entry after the editorial staff discussed it and agreed more nuance was needed. Ms. Mitchum’s exchange with the editor at the dictionary was reported by KMOV-TV on June 8.
Mr. Chambers said they are also planning to revise the entries of other words that are related to racism or have racial connotations.
“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,” he said. “It also does a disservice to readers of all races.”
Merriam-Webster's current definition reads:
Mitchum contacting Merriam-Webster was reportedly her form of protest in the wake of recent protests following the death of George Floyd. Floyd died while in the custody of Minnesota police who attempted to arrest Floyd of suspected forgery charges after they say he tried to use counterfeit money. His death marked the beginning of the BLM protests as well as looting and rioting around the nation.