Damn, now that is progress!
Courtesy of Vox:
Signifying the larger cultural shift felt around the US, Merriam-Webster will now include systemic oppression in its latest definition of racism.
The dictionary, which has long served as a gatekeeper of the English lexicon, made plans for the update after recent Drake University graduate Kennedy Mitchum emailed editors frustrated about the current definition’s inadequacy.
Merriam-Webster’s current definition of racism reads:
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.”
a: doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
b: a political or social system founded on racism
racial prejudice or discrimination.
Mitchum, a black woman who hails from Florissant, Missouri, a city just north of Ferguson, wanted the dictionary to provide a more detailed definition, one that includes an explanation of systemic oppression. She grew tired of having conversations about racial injustice, just to have people point to the dictionary as a defense for why they’re not racist.
“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 told CNN.
Mitchum was both shocked and pleased when editors at Merriam-Webster replied to her concern and pledged to make a change. In the response to Mitchum, Merriam-Webster editor Alex Chambers 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.”
See? Just when you think that one voice cannot change anything, an information source that is almost two hundred years old makes changes based on one person’s request.
That, my friends, is the power of advocacy and the change that we can make if we do not give up hope.
And if you add hundreds, thousands, or even a million more voices you can change the world.
Which is exactly what we are in the process of doing.