Merriam-Webster dictionary to change definition of racism
22-year-old Kennedy Mitchum was not expecting much when she emailed Merriam-Webster dictionary, but she did hope to be able to let the publishers know that the dictionary’s definition was not enough.
“I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world,” she told CNN. “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.”
Merriam-Webster’s first definition of racism 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.”
Mitchum sent an email to Merriam-Webster on Thursday night and got a response from the dictionary’s editor, Alex Chambers the next morning.
“This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem,” Chambers said in his reply to Mitchum, which she shared with CNN. “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.”
Peter Sokolowski, who is also a Merriam-Webster editor emailed a statement to The Associated Press in which he made it known that the dictionary’s second definition is “divided to express, first, explicit institutional bias against people because of their race, and, second, a broader implicit bias that can also result in an asymmetrical power structure.”
He said, however: “This second definition covers the sense that Ms. Mitchum was seeking, and we will make its wording even more clear in our next release.
“This is the kind of continuous revision that is part of the work of keeping the dictionary up to date, based on rigorous criteria and research we employ in order to describe the language as it is actually used.”