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Merriam-Webster Revises Definition of 'Racism' upon Request from a African-American Woman

Merriam Webster responded to the Missouri woman's request after Black Lives Matter protests | Image credit: Reuters/AFP

Merriam Webster responded to the Missouri woman's request after Black Lives Matter protests | Image credit: Reuters/AFP

Missouri's Kennedy Mitchum, recent graduate of Drake University in Iowa, wrote to the 189-year-old institution in wake of the George Floyd protests.

US dictionary Merriam-Webster will update the meaning of the word "racism" after being contacted by a Missouri black woman, who claimed the current definition fell short of including the systematic oppression of people of colour, according to media reports.

"A revision to the entry for racism is now being drafted to be added to the dictionary soon, and we are also planning to revise the entries of other words that are related to racism or have racial connotations," according to a statement of the 189-year-old dictionary shared by Kennedy Mitchum, a recent graduate of Drake University in Iowa, on her Facebook.

Mitchum, 22, emailed the dictionary last month, following the death of African American George Floyd in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers, Xinhua news agency reported.

"I kept having to tell them that definition is not representative of what is actually happening in the world," Mitchum told CNN.

"The way that racism occurs in real life is not just prejudiced, it's the systemic racism that is happening for a lot of black Americans."

Merriam-Webster's first definition of racism is "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."

"It's not just disliking someone because of their race," Mitchum wrote in a Facebook post on Friday. "This current fight we are in is evidence of that, lives are at stake because of the systems of oppression that go hand-in-hand with racism."