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HomeNewsMerriam-Webster to redefine 'racism' after request from black woman

Merriam-Webster to redefine ‘racism’ after request from black woman

American dictionary, Merriam-Webster has declared that it will be redefining the meaning of the word “racism”.

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This is coming after it received an email from a young black woman from Missouri. 

Credit: Licensors

22-year-old Kennedy Mitchum who recently graduated from Drake University in Iowa, had said in her email that the dictionary’s current definition of racism is not representative of what racism is in today’s society.

The current definition is “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.

According to her, it fell short of including the systematic oppression of people of colour. 

Mitchum told CNN; “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.”

Also to BBC, she said she became aware of the lapses in the current definition about four years ago.

“I 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,” she said.

Merriam-Webster to redefine 'racism' after request from black woman
Merriam-Webster to redefine ‘racism’ after request from black woman

“There were a lot of things that were racist but it wasn’t as blatant.”

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“Some troll was messaging me trying to say ‘You don’t understand what racism truly is,'” she said.

People were copy-and-pasting the definition to her in an attempt to prove racism could only exist if you believe your race to be superior to another.

“They were saying: ‘You’re in school [university], 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 colour of my skin and the systems that are in place.”

Mitchum said she got an email from Alex Chambers, an editor of the dictionary the next morning acknowledging her recommendation was being looked into.

Chambers was quoted saying in the email; 

“This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem. 

“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.”

Merriam-Webster’s editorial manager Peter Sokolowski told BBC that “It could be expanded to include the term systemic and it will certainly have one or two example sentences, at least.

This is coming amid the global campaign against racism following the death of George Floyd, a black American who died while in police custody. 

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