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Douglas Andrews / June 12, 2020

Merriam-Webster Tries to Redefine Racism

The old dictionary is playing word games again to placate the leftist mob.

Crack open your copy of Noah Webster’s first dictionary, and you won’t find the word “racism.” You won’t even find the word “race,” for that matter, except as a verb in the sense of “to run or contend in a race.”

And yet from its “nonexistence” in 1806 to its colossal status today, the concept of racism now dominates both our politics and our culture. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that venerable old Merriam-Webster announced this week that its definition of racism will soon be broadened.

What might surprise us, though, is that Merriam-Webster didn’t arrive at its decision after an exhaustive debate among its usage panel and its editorial board. No, all it took was an email exchange with Kennedy Mitchum, a 22-year-old Drake University graduate who thought the dictionary’s definition of racism — 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 — was just too doggone “simple.”

“This is the last argument I’m going to have about this,” Mitchum warned. “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.”

Got that, you wordy word people? “I know what racism is.”

Clearly shaken by the sheer force of Mitchum’s argument, Merriam-Webster thanked her for her “persistence” and then fell into line. “While our focus will always be on faithfully reflecting the real-world usage of a word, not on promoting any particular viewpoint,” said Editor Alex Chambers, “we have concluded that omitting any mention of the systemic aspects of racism promotes a certain viewpoint in itself.”

Thus, they’re adding a dubious “systemic” aspect to their definition of racism, but they’re not “promoting any particular viewpoint.”

Mitchum says she’s now “super happy,” and why not? She’ll soon have a customized cudgel with which to wallop folks who don’t buy into the Left’s “systemic” and “institutional” views of racism.

All this, of course, is just the latest salvo in The War Over Words — a war in which the Left has been busy gobbling up ground.

In his brief but highly influential 2004 book Don’t Think of an Elephant, former Cal-Berkeley professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics George Lakoff stressed the importance of framing the debate. “Do not use their language,” he said, referring to those of us on the Right. “Their language picks out a frame — and it won’t be the frame you want.”

In other words, don’t use language like “abortion,” “illegal alien,” “semiautomatic rifle,” “terrorist,” and “rioter.” Instead, use words like “choice,” “undocumented immigrant,” “assault weapon,” “freedom fighter,” and “protester.” The list goes on and on, and it grows each time we allow leftists and their media enablers to choose the words we use in our daily lives.

Lakoff knew it well, and Michael Knowles at PragerU put it succinctly: Those who control the words also control the culture. And the narrative.

As for the word “racism” itself, leftist historian Arthur M. Schlesinger was certainly onto something when, in his 1991 book The Disuniting of America — Reflections on a Multicultural Society, he wrote that our national fixation on race and ethnicity “became a cult, and today it threatens to become a counter-revolution against the original theory of America as ‘one people,’ a common culture, a single nation.”

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