After a woman’s campaign, Merriam-Webster is now changing their definition of the word “racism,” which will reflect systemic oppression.
Kennedy Mitchum, the 22-year-old protestor and Drake University graduate, called for the change, quoting people who use the dictionary definition to argue that something is not racist.
Mitchum wrote in an email, “Racism is not only prejudice against a certain race due to the color of a person’s skin, as it states in your dictionary,. It is both prejudice combined with social and institutional power. It is a system of advantage based on skin color.”
Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster editor-at-large, says, “This entry has not been revised in decades.” He adds that the new definition would be an “improvement of the wording.” Additional editors say, “We have concluded that omitting any mention of the systemic aspects of racism promotes a certain viewpoint in itself … It also does a disservice to readers of all races.”
The current definition in Merriam-Webster reads:
1: 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
2a: a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
b: a political or social system founded on racism
3: racial prejudice or discrimination