Taking a step forward, the American reference dictionary Merriam-Webster has decided to change its definition of the word 'racism' following the suggestion of a 22-year-old black woman, who insisted that it should reflect the oppression of people of color in better ways.
Kennedy Mitchum, a graduate of Drake University in Iowa, suggested Merriam-Webster to update the definition of the word.
The young woman had emailed Merriam-Webster that their definition of racism, "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," was not all-encompassing.
"I basically told them that they need to include that there's systematic oppression upon a group of people," Mitchum said. "It's not just, 'Oh, I don't like someone.'"
The editorial manager of Merriam-Webster which has been publishing its dictionaries since 1847, Peter Sokolowski assured that the definition would be amended after the young woman's request.
Taking note of the request, the editor said: "We apologize for the harm and offense we have caused in failing to address this issue sooner".
The dictionary provides three definitions of racism, and Sokolowski claims that the second definition is close to Mitchum's point. "We will make that even more clear in our next release," the manager said.
In the present 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," Sokolowski said.
The changes are likely to be reflected in their next release.
"I was super happy because I really felt like that was a step in a good direction for a lot of positive change for a lot of different positive conversations that can really help change the world and helps change how people view things," Mitchum was quoted as saying by CNN.
One of the editors also told Mitchum that definitions of some other words which are "related to racism or have racial connotations" would also be modified.