American dictionary Merriam-Webster says it will modify its definition of the word ‘racism’ at the request of an African-American lady to better make it reflect the oppression of people of colour.
The revision comes against the backdrop of protests around the U.S against police brutality after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pinned his neck to the ground.
Kennedy Mitchum, a recent graduate of Law from Drake University, Iowa, United States, contacted Merriam-Webster via emails to request an update of the term after she realised the current definition of the word was ‘problematic’ if she tried to define it as a lawyer in a law court, local media and CBS affiliate KMOV-TV reported.
“I basically told them that they need to include that there’s a systematic oppression upon a group of people,” she said.
“It’s not just, ‘Oh, I don’t like someone.’”
In its online version, Merriam-Webster dictionary first 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 Merriam-Webster’s editorial manager, Peter Sokolowski, said the second definition borders on Ms Mitchum’s point.
According to the second definition, racism is “a doctrine or political programme based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles,” and “a political or social system founded on racism” as its third definition.
Assuring Ms Mitchum of a modification of the term, Mr Sokolowski said,“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.”
Amidst the protest in the country, the Merriam-Webster site which houses free, available definitions was said to have had nearly 50 million unique visitors in May because of its “sassiest” nature.
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