American dictionary, Merriam-Webster has announced that it will be redefining the meaning of the word “racism” after receiving an email from a young black woman from Missouri.
22-year-old Kennedy Mitchum who is a recent graduate of Drake University in Iowa, had said in her email that the dictionary’s current definition of racism to mean “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”, 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.”
Mitchum said she received 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 however told the AFP news agency that the second definition of racism which is centered on “political or social system founded on racism” will be updated to reflect the request
“We will make that 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.”
This is coming amid the global campaign against racism following the death of George Floyd, a black American who died while in police custody.