Merriam-Webster will update definition of ‘racism’ thanks to Drake University grad

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Drake University graduate gets Merriam-Webster Dictionary to update ‘bigotry’ definition

Sarah Kay LeBlanc
Des Moines Register
Published 5:18 PM EDT Jun 10, 2020

Kennedy Mitchum understands the power of words. Much so, that she combated to update the meaning of “bigotry”– and won.

A Might 2020 graduate of Drake University who’s originally from Florissant, Missouri, Mitchum sent out an email May 28 to Merriam-Webster editors. She inquired to consist of a mention of systemic oppression in their meaning of racism.They said yes.Mitchum, who integrated her study of public

relations with the law, politics and society, had actually been in various arguments with people who utilized Merriam-Webster’s definition of racism to safeguard habits. Then a video emerged showing George Floyd’s death as Minneapolis cops officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for practically nine minutes.”I felt like a lot of people all over the country didn’t comprehend the magnitude of racism and the

depth of bigotry, and that consisted of the dictionary,”she said.Her goal, she stated, was for the dictionary’s editors to broaden the definition to mention the systemic aspects of racism that oppress individuals in minority groups. “I simply specified my claim that it’s not simply prejudice, it’s prejudice blended with power,”she stated. She was shocked when her

submission on the dictionary’s contact page was answered almost instantly, and after a couple of

e-mails back and forth, editor Alex Chambers agreed the definition needs to be changed.The dictionary’s very first meaning of racism is,”a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial distinctions produce an

intrinsic supremacy of a particular race.” The second includes”a teaching or political program based upon the presumption of bigotry,”and,”a political or social system established on racism. “Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, stated in a statement that modifications are made to guarantee the dictionary is describing language as it is utilized.”This second definition covers the sense that Ms. Mitchum was seeking, and we will make its phrasing much more clear in our next release,”he said.”Revisions of this kind are a crucial part of the work of keeping the dictionary up-to-date.”According to the email from Chambers to Mitchum, a revision for”racism “will be added to the dictionary in the coming months. Other words that relate to racism or have racial connotations will likewise be modified, Chambers stated in the e-mail.”While our focus will always be on faithfully reflecting the real-world use of a word, not on promoting any specific perspective, we have actually concluded that leaving out any mention of the systemic elements of bigotry promotes a particular perspective in itself,”Chambers said in the email.Mitchum said she hopes the modification triggers discussions on bigotry and its repercussions.”This is a conversation that needs to be had at this time,”she said.”It must have been had a while ago, but it’s really evident that there are systems in location that keep people down. It’s not right, and we require to acknowledge it

in order to move on.”Sarah LeBlanc covers trending news for the Register. Reach her at 515-284-8161 or sleblanc@registermedia.com.Your membership makes work like this possible. Join today at DesMoinesRegister.com/ Deal.Published 5:18 PM EDT Jun 10, 2020