Many of us know the definition of racism sadly from firsthand experience. For years Merriam Webster has defined racism as, “the belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Thanks to Kennedy Mitchum, a recent graduate of Drake University, the word will now get an updated definition that will describe how racism affects people of color. Specifically, Mitchum wanted the dictionary to talk about systemic racism within their definition stating, “I basically told them that they need to include that there’s a systemic oppression upon a group of people.”
Webster does offer a total of three definitions for the word, including one that touches vaguely on systemic racism by defining it as, “a political or social system founded on racism.”
Mitchum told CBS affiliate KWOV, “It’s not just, Oh I don’t like someone.” As we all know racism has come in many shapes and forms; it runs deeper than disliking people based on their skin. Systemic racism has and continues to oppress African Americans; it is something that has held us back throughout history.
Webster did apologize for any harm they may have caused by not addressing the issue sooner. They have also promised that they would not only be updating the definition of racism but fixing any other definitions that have to do with the word. Personally, I think this is a step in the right direction. With everything that is happening it is crucial that people stay informed and educated about things in order to gain a better understanding of how issues such as racism affect us.
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By Monique Petty-Ashmeade, Freshman, DePaul University