- A Missouri woman emailed Merriam-Webster asking them to update the definition of racism, several outlets reported.
- Merriam-Webster editor Alex Chambers agreed.
- Kennedy Mitchum said the current definition of racism did not address the systemic oppression and was limited in terms of what racism actually looked like.
- Mitchum was surprised when the dictionary responded.
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A Missouri woman emailed Merriam-Webster asking them to update their definition of racism, and they agreed to, CNN reported.
Kennedy Mitchum told local outlet KMOV that she reached out to the dictionary after she noticed that the reason why people argued with her on the definition of racism was rooted in the way it was defined in the dictionary.
“With everything going on, I think it’s important everyone is on the same page,” Mitchum told KMOV.
Merriam-Webster’s initial definition of racism was “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,” according to CNN.
Mitchum told CNN that people would use that first definition to say they weren’t racist and dismiss her concerns about racism.
She was surprised when she got an email back from Alex Chambers, the editor of Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the morning after she sent hers. According to KMOV, after a few emails back and forth, they agreed on a proper revision.
“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,” Mitchum told KMOV.
Chambers said a new definition of “racism” is now being drafted, but did not give a date on when the update would be released, KMOV reported.
“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 apologise for the harm and offence we have caused in failing to address the issue sooner. I will see to it that the entry for racism is given the attention it sorely needs,” Chambers wrote in an email to Mitchum, according to CNN.
Mitchum told CNN she hopes the new definition helps people have “more productive conversations around race.”
“I was super happy because I really felt like that was a step in a good direction for a lot of positive change for a lot of different positive conversations that can really help change the world and helps change how people view things,” she told CNN.