The Merriam-Webster Dictionary will update the definition of the word “racist” on Tuesday after a Missouri woman’s complaint.
Kennedy Mitchum, 22, was in charge of restructuring its entry into the dictionary last month following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers.
“When everything is going on, I think it’s important that everyone is on the same page,” Mitchum told KMOV-TV.
A recent Florissant resident of Drake University, she said she was moved to action by her recent conversations about racism and injustice, where people would point to Merriam-Webster’s definition.
Merriam-Webster’s first definition of racism is that “race is the primary determinant of human characteristics and abilities, and that racial differences create the inherent superiority of a particular species.”
But Mitchum said the definition was too simplistic and could be used by people to address the broader problems of racial inequality.
“I told them they had to add proper systematic oppression to the people. This is why I don’t like one,” Mitzam told the store.
After two emails back and forth, Merriam-Webster acknowledged that Mitchum was surprised to receive a response and that a revision was needed.
“We have decided that our focus will always be on reflecting on the real-world use of a word, not promoting any particular point of view, but avoiding any reference to the formal aspects of racism,” she said in the emails received.
Alex Chambers, editor of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, told Midsummer that “this correction would not have been possible without your due diligence in contacting us about this issue.”
Chambers wrote: “We apologize for rewriting the harm and guilt we caused in failing to resolve the issue so quickly.
An amendment should be sought in the coming months, Chambers said, though he did not provide an exact date.
The current second definition of the term “racism” includes: “The explicit institutional bias against people because of their race, and secondly, the widespread implicit bias that can create an asymmetric power structure.”
“This second definition embodies the sentiment that Ms. Mitchum has sought, and will be further clarified in our next issue,” Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, said in a statement to The Post.
“This is an ongoing revision. This is part of keeping the dictionary up to date. We use it to describe what the language really is based on rigorous criteria and research,” Sokolowski said.
Mitcam CNN He was “very happy” about the expected change.
“I felt that this was a step in the right direction for a lot of positive change, with a lot of positive conversations that could really help change the world and how people see things,” he said.