NPR: Mitchum and Swamidass on the Meaning of Race and Racism

This Monday at noon, Kennedy Mitchum and I are being interviewed by NPR about the meaning of race and racism.

And especially in a country like the U.S. where conversations about race are often uncomfortable, definitions matter — “much more than we think they do,” Washington University’s Dr. Joshua Swamidass told St. Louis on the Air . “Debates and our perceptions can shift dramatically based on how authority sources define contested terms.”

Definition of racism

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
Racism | Definition of Racism by Merriam-Webster

Peter Sokolowski, an editor at large at Merriam-Webster, said in an interview Wednesday that editors were working to revise the online entry for racism after the recent graduate, Kennedy Mitchum, wrote a series of emails stating her case.

“This entry has not been revised in decades,” he said, adding that it was not a new division of the word’s meanings, “but an improvement of the wording.”

As a student at Drake University in Des Moines, Ms. Mitchum had noticed in discussions about racism that white people sometimes defended their arguments by cutting and pasting the definition from the dictionary.


Recording is now up. What did you think?