• Missouri woman requests Merriam-Webster change its definition of "racism" to include systemic oppression 
  • Webster agrees to update definition to include biases that contribute to racism around the world
  • Change comes as world seeks to rid itself of racist attitudes and behaviors

Merriam-Webster is planning to change its dictionary definition of “racism” after a Missouri woman insisted that the previous definition was fairly inadequate and didn't represent the systematic aspects that led to generations of discrimination.

Webster 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.” Kennedy Mitchum, a 22-year-old fresh graduate from Drake University told KMOV-TV that she found it too simple and too surface level.

Mitchum, of Florissant, Missouri, hence decided to e-mail the publishers last month asking them to bring a much-needed change. “So, a couple weeks ago, I said this is the last argument I’m going to have about this. I know what racism is, I’ve experienced it time and time and time again in a lot of different ways, so enough is enough. So, I emailed them about how I felt about it. Saying this needs to change,” she told the station.

“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,” she added.

To her surprise, the editor responded and after exchanging a few more e-mails; he assured that the company will update the definition.

“While our focus will always be on faithfully reflecting the real-world usage of a word, not on promoting any particular viewpoint, we have concluded that omitting any mention of the systemic aspects of racism promotes a certain viewpoint in itself,” Alex Chambers, the editor of Merriam-Webster Dictionary, wrote to her in a follow-up e-mail, adding that their entry for “racism,” was to get revised.

Peter Sokolowski, the editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster told Fox News that whereas the original definition of racism is how a person individually believes that he is superior to other people in terms of his race, the second definition will allude to the bias that has long been a contributing factor for racial discrimination.

“Our second definition is divided to express, first, explicit institutional bias against people because of their race, and, second, a broader implicit bias that can also result in an asymmetrical power structure,” he told the publication.

“This second definition covers the sense that Ms. Mitchum was seeking, and we will make that even more clear in our next release,” he further added. “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.”

The change comes as the U.S., and the world, spawn protests over the death of the African-American man, George Floyd, at the hands of law enforcement in Minneapolis, Minnesota May 25th.

Demonstrators raise their fists and chant as they protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd across from the White House in Washington
Demonstrators raise their fists and chant as they protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd across from the White House in Washington AFP / Olivier DOULIERY