Merriam-Webster amended its definition of racism after a recent college graduate repeatedly contacted them about including systematic racism.
It's not an easy feat for the definition of words to be amended by Merriam-Webster, but Drake University graduate Kennedy Mitchum was able to do just that. According to reports, 22-year-old Kennedy repeatedly contacted representatives and staff members working for Merriam-Webster in an effort to have them not change the definition of the word "racism," but to add to its meaning.
“I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world. The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudice, it’s the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans,” she shared with CNN. It came to her surprise when someone finally contacted her to let her know that they understood her point, and they would make necessary changes.
Merriam-Webster editor Alex Chambers reportedly said, “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.”
Prior to the change, Merriam-Webster defined 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.” They've now included, "a: doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles" and "b: a political or social system founded on racism."
"This revision would not have been made without your persistence in contacting us about this problem," Alex Chambers wrote to Kenndy in an email. "We sincerely thank you for repeatedly writing in and apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner."