Merriam-Webster dictionary to change its definition of racism

(Photo: Aljazeera)

Small steps matter too when you’re trying to achieve great change, and Kennedy Mitchum, a recent graduate of Drake University in Iowa, knows that. It’s why she decided to reach out to American reference dictionary Merriam-Webster to have it change its definition of racism to better reflect the oppression of people of colour.

Kennedy Mitchum

The dictionary currently offers three definition of racism. In the current version of the second definition, racism is “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.”

Merriam-Webster’s editorial manager Peter Sokolowski told the Associate Press that the definition would be modified after Mitchum’s request. 

Merriam-Webster dictionary to change its definition of racism ...

“This is the kind of continuous revision that is part of the work of keeping the dictionary up to date, based on rigorous criteria and research we employ in order to describe the language as it is actually used,” Sokolowski said.

“We apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner,” the editor wrote, according to a message published by Drake University and retweeted by Mitchum. 

Merriam-Webster, has been published its dictionaries since 1847. The Merriam-Webster site, where the definitions are available for free, had nearly 50 million unique visitors in May, according to the SimilarWeb site.