Major dictionary to redefine racism


US dictionary Merriam-Webster is changing its definition of "racism" after a young black reader complained that people were using the existing definition to argue with her online.

Kennedy Mitchum, 22, from St Louis, says she sent a series of emails to the publisher, which has now agreed to revise its definition to stress the "systems of oppression that go hand-in-hand with racism".

"I've been having a lot of disagreements lately on social media about what racism truly means," she said in a Facebook post. "It took the fourth person of the day to copy and paste the definition as stated in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary to reach out and demand a change."



Merriam-Webster's editorial manager Peter Sokolowski told AFP that the definition would be modified after Ms Mitchum's request. The dictionary currently offers three definitions of racism, and Mr Sokolowski said that the second definition touches on Ms Mitchum's point - but that "we will make that even more clear in our next release".

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." "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," he said.

One of the dictionary's editors told Ms Mitchum that the definitions of other words "related to racism or have racial connotations" would also be updated, without specifying which ones. "We apologise 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 Ms Mitchum.

- with AFP