The Merriam-Webster dictionary has announced that it will redefine “racism” with the concept of “systemic racism”, following a complaint from a recent graduate.
Kennedy Mitchum, a graduate of Drake University in Iowa, had written to Merriam-Webster after concluding that its definition was not enough to describe racism as currently experienced in the United States.
“I had to keep telling it [people] Which [Merriam-Webster’s] definition is not representative of what is really happening in the world, ”Mitchum said CNN. “The way racism happens in real life isn’t just prejudice – it’s the systemic racism that happens to many black Americans.”
In the current definition of Merriam-Webster, racism is defined as “racial prejudice or discrimination,” a belief in the racial superiority of a particular group, or “a doctrine or political program” based on racism. The editorial manager of the dictionary, Peter Sokolowski, said that the definition would be updated to explain “systemic” racism, although the term would fall under racism supported by a political program.
“I think we can express this more clearly to convey the idea of an asymmetric power structure in the language of this definition, but it’s there,” Sokolowski said. “This is the kind of continuous revision that is part of the work of keeping the dictionary up to date, based on strict criteria and research we use to describe the language as it is actually used.”
The update comes after massive demonstrations of the death of George Floyd, an African American man who was murdered by the Minneapolis Police Department during his arrest.
In September 2019, Merriam-Webster announced that it had updated the definition of “she” to include persons who consider themselves neither male nor female.