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Merriam-Webster to Update Dictionary Definition of Racism After Public Request

© AP Photo / Stephan SavoiaIn this Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014 photo, a Merriam-Webster dictionary sits atop their citation files for the 2014 word of the year, "culture," at the dictionary publisher's offices in Springfield, Mass.
In this Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014 photo, a Merriam-Webster dictionary sits atop their citation files for the 2014 word of the year, culture, at the dictionary publisher's offices in Springfield, Mass. - Sputnik International
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Mitchum was motivated to contact Merriam-Webster by meeting people pointing to the dictionary to prove they weren’t racist because of the way they felt towards people of colour - she felt the definition needed to reflect broader issues of racial inequality in society.

US dictionary Merriam-Webster is to change its definition of ‘racism’ after receiving an email from a young black woman.

Kennedy Mitchum, a recent graduate of Drake University in Iowa, suggested the definition should include a reference to systematic oppression - an editor responded, agreeing to update the dictionary accordingly.

The decision comes amid international anti-racism protests after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer who held a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

​Merriam-Webster's current definition of racism is “a belief race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race; a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles; a political or social system founded on racism; racial prejudice or discrimination”.

"I kept having to tell them definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world. The way racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice - it's the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans,” Mitchum told CNN.

Merriam-Webster editorial manager Peter Sokolowski told AFP the second definition 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," he added.

 

 

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