Merriam-Webster decides to change the definition of ‘racism’


The death of George Floyd and many others reignited the deep rooted issue of racism in the US and around the world. To show solidarity, US based dictionary, Merriam-Webster has altered the definition of racism as suggested by a 22-year old woman.

As shown in a CNN report, 22-year old Kennedy Mitchum had emailed Merriam-Webster last month informing that their definition of the word ‘racism’ was short sighted and not inclusive. The previous definition was as follows, “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”.

She had not expected a reply to her email, but was surprised when she found a reply of agreement by an editor of the dictionary. The editor had agreed to modify the definition by adding a second part to it.

She was quoted saying, “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.”

In an email to The Associated Press, M-W’s editor, Peter Sokolowski stated that the addition will be “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.”

Mitchum was quoted saying, “I was super happy because I really felt like that was a step in a good direction for a lot of positive change for a lot of different positive conversations that can really help change the world and helps change how people view things,” as reported by CNN.

The second definition seems to be more accomodating and inclusive, and works on the flaws and the limitations in the first one. The change and modification would obviously be better known at the release of the new dictionary.

Inputs from Yukta Baid


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