Editor’s Update: This article was originally published on 7/13/2020. Since it was published, the online version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary has redefined racism as “a belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.”
Scroll down to read why Merriam-Webster dictionary decided to redefine the word “racism.”
July 13, 2020
What’s the definition of racism? Currently, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines racism as “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,” but that’s going to change very soon. Why?
Recent graduate Kennedy Mitchum was tired of people correcting her when she defined racism to include a broader definition of the word.
To her, the definition of the word was really outdated. To her, racism is not just people’s prejudice against others but also prejudice combined with social or systemic power. She emailed the editors of the Merriam-Webster dictionary and asked them to revise and expand the definition of racism.
To Mitchum’s surprise, Merriam-Webster editor Alex Chambers emailed her the next day, launching a series of emails to discuss possible changes to the definition. Chambers wrote, “This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem. We sincerely thank you for repeatedly writing in and apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner.” Those working on revising the definition of racism will be consulting with experts in Black studies to come up with the new definition. The new definition of the word will be published as soon as August.