Merriam-Webster plans to expand on its definition of “racism” in its dictionary in order to include systemic racism. The move comes after the publisher received a letter from a recent college grad imploring them to make the update because when she would get into arguments with people about what racism is, the definition failed to include systemic racism.
“So, a couple weeks ago, I said this is the last argument I’m going to have about this. I know what racism is, I’ve experienced it time and time and time again in a lot of different ways, so enough is enough,” 22-year-old Kennedy Mitchum told KMOV4, a television station out of St. Louis, Missouri. “So, I emailed them about how I felt about it, saying this needs to change.”
“I basically told them they need to include that there is systematic oppression on people. It’s not just ‘I don’t like someone,’ it’s a system of oppression for a certain group of people,” Mitchum added.
Mitchum exchanged a number of emails with Merriam-Webster before the editor agreed to the change and wrote back, “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.”
A revised definition is currently being drafted.
Currently, they list the definition as follows:
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
2 (a): a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
2 (b): a political or social system founded on racism
3: racial prejudice or discrimination
The politicization of language has become an increasing problem over the years. If you look up words like “fascism” or “Nazism” on Wikipedia, you will find that they are erroneously linked to “far-right” ideology, even though, for example, the Nazi Party literally meant National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
The left’s attempts to change history and language to suit their agenda are creepily reminiscent of George Orwell’s novel, 1984.
The fact is, this change in the definition of racism is less about the definition itself than the legitimatization of the idea that systemic racism is an undeniable fact, which it is not. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, the most commonly cited example of systemic racism alleged by the left is racist policing, and that is pure fiction.
Liberals are quick to blame differences in outcomes between racial groups as evidence of systemic racism, but many of these disparities are actually connected to life choices.
Even the left-wing Brookings Institute acknowledges there are three rules to avoiding permanent poverty in the United States, and none of them are “being white.” The rules are (1) graduate high school (2) get any full-time job, and (3) don’t have kids out of wedlock:
Our research shows that of American adults who followed these three simple rules, only about 2 percent are in poverty and nearly 75 percent have joined the middle class (defined as earning around $55,000 or more per year). There are surely influences other than these principles at play, but following them guides a young adult away from poverty and toward the middle class.
There are no laws that dictate treating racial groups differently—unless you’re talking about affirmative action and “non-discrimination” policies that give preference to minority racial groups in school admissions and hiring. But, somehow, I don’t think that’s the systemic racism they’re talking about.
If we’re really going to have a conversation about “systemic racism” we need to talk about the fact that laws designed to level the playing are assuming systemic racism.
I don’t particularly care what Merriam-Webster’s new updated definition will be. The exact wording is irrelevant. The problem I have is that Mitchum, who requested the update, was driven by her need to have her opinion legitimized by the dictionary. She doesn’t want a debate about whether systemic racism exists, she wants her position validated by an influential voice of authority so she doesn’t have to debate it at all.
Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis
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