Merriam-Webster dictionary to revise definition of racism after complaints
It is rare for me to agree with a Leftist but I heartily endorse the claim below that the dictionary definition is inadequate. But my grounds for disagreement differ.
The dictionary definitions below are a highpoint of philosophical inadequacy. They define racism, in terms of itself! They effectively say racism is racism. The whole entry should be scrapped. I would offer only two definitions that comply with current usage:
1). To the hysterical Left any mention of race is racism and any mention of racial differences is doubly so. Such reactions are irrational however so the most expansive definition I would support is "preference for one group over another".
2). Even that usage, however tends to associate too much with racism. It associates probably harmless attitudes with some of the great evils of history. A more historically-grounded definition would be: "Advocating or practicing harm or disadvantage to other people solely on account of their race". Racism of that sort is exceedingly rare today outside Muslim countries.
In a blow to arguments that end with “well, this is the dictionary definition of racism”, the dictionary definition of racism is being revised.
Editors at Merriam-Webster confirmed on Wednesday that they will revise the word’s definition after a campaign by a 22-year-old Drake University graduate, Kennedy Mitchum.
Mitchum wrote to the dictionary asking it to update its definition. She said that people often use the dictionary definition of racism to argue that something is not racist, on the basis that racism requires a personal dislike of someone based on their race to be real.
In an email to Merriam-Webster, Mitchum wrote: “Racism is not only prejudice against a certain race due to the color of a person’s skin, as it states in your dictionary,. It is both prejudice combined with social and institutional power. It is a system of advantage based on skin color.”
The definition, which incorporates the idea that prejudice alone is not racism (rather, racism requires a system of institutional power behind it in order to function) was put forward by the sociologist Patricia Bidol in the 1970s.
The current definition of racism in Merriam-Webster reads:
1: 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
2a: 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
3: racial prejudice or discrimination
Editors have conceded that the entry has not been rewritten in decades. “This entry has not been revised in decades,” Merriam-Webster editor-at-large, Peter Sokolowski, told the Times, adding that the new definition would be an “improvement of the wording”.
Editors added that although the dictionary aims to reflect the real-world usage of a word, rather than a particular viewpoint, “we have concluded that omitting any mention of the systemic aspects of racism promotes a certain viewpoint in itself … It also does a disservice to readers of all races.”