Merriam-Webster to redefine “racism” to include “systemic” issues

by Peter Heck · Jun 12th, 2020 11:25 am
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Merriam-Webster has announced that in response to a recent complaint, it will be updating its dictionary definition of racism to include the concept of systemic oppression.

Drake University graduate Kennedy Mitchum had complained to Merriam-Webster that its current description of racism as "racial prejudice or discrimination" and a belief in racial superiority was insufficient in describing the more common forms racism takes today.

"I kept having to tell [people] that [Merriam-Webster's] definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world," Mitchum 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."

Peter Sokolowski, who serves as the company's editorial manager over dictionaries, said Merriam-Webster is constantly revising and updating its definitions to reflect modern understanding and this instance would be no different.

"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," Sokolowski said.

Sokolowski said new versions of the dictionary would express the definition of racism to include systemic concerns.

🔦 This is not the first time that the dictionary-maker has altered definitions of terms in response to social concerns. Following a push from the transgender lobby in 2019, Merriam-Webster updated the definition of the word "they" to include people who believe themselves to be neither male nor female.

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