Woman Gets Dictionary to Redefine Racism

'It's not just "I don't like someone," it's a system of oppression for a certain group of people'
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 10, 2020 2:48 AM CDT
Woman Gets Dictionary to Redefine Racism
In this Sunday, June 7, 2020, photo, Kennedy Mitchum protests outside the Florissant Police Department with other protesters on Lindbergh Boulevard in front of the Florissant Police Station, in Florissant, Mo. M   (Christian Gooden/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP)

Merriam-Webster currently has, as its first listed definition of racism, "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." A 22-year-old Missouri woman had a problem with that, and as a result, the dictionary will now change that definition. As Kennedy Mitchum explains to CNN, she reached out to the publishers to explain that the dictionary's current definition allows people to ignore racism because they don't personally hold those beliefs. "I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world," she says. "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."

She emailed Thursday night and had a reply by Friday morning. A new definition is now being drafted. An editor at large explains to the AP that while the dictionary's second listed definition for racism does address Mitchum's point (it includes the terms "a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles" and "a political or social system founded on racism"), that definition's wording will be made "even more clear in our next release." He adds, "I think we can express this more clearly to bring the idea of an asymmetrical power structure into the language of this definition." Mitchum tells KMOV, "I basically told them they need to include that there is systematic oppression on people. It's not just 'I don't like someone,' it's a system of oppression for a certain group of people." (More racism stories.)

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