In difficult times like these, Twitter often turns into a space for heated debates. And if it hits a nerve, it may spiral out of control.

This is what happened when Jesús A. Rodríguez tweeted a photo showing a supermarket shelf with the caption “it’s more than just the police.” The image showed an aisle of locked-up hair products allegedly aimed at black hair. Jesús’s post soon racked up 606K likes and 191K retweets and got everyone debating the issue. Others joined in to share more pics from supermarkets calling them out for “everyday systematic racism.”

But some remained skeptical over whether the issue has anything to do with racism. In reply to Jesús’s post, Nola Darling said that “stores lock up products that are mostly stolen.” Let’s dive into the stormy discussion down below to see how it progressed.

This post sparked a stormy discussion on Twitter

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Many joined in to share what they spotted at supermarkets

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Institutional and systematic racism have become keywords in the wake of the George Floyd protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. Mary Frances O’Dowd, a senior lecturer of Indigenous Studies at CQUniversity Australia, described these two terms in a piece for The Conversation. “’Systemic racism,’ or ‘institutional racism,’ refers to how ideas of white superiority are captured in everyday thinking at a systems level: taking in the big picture of how society operates, rather than looking at one-on-one interactions.”

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It’s also important to note that “these systems can include laws and regulations, but also unquestioned social systems.” This means that systematic racism can stem from “education, access, and hiring practices.” It penetrates, both openly and invisibly, every aspect of our daily lives.

For example, Joaquin Phoenix called out systematic racism in the film industry as his speech for leading actor at the 2020 BAFTA awards. “I think that we send a very clear message to people of color that you’re not welcome here. I think it’s more than just having sets that are multicultural. We have to do really the hard work to truly understand systemic racism.”

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Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary currently defines racism as:

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, b) a political or social system founded on racism
3.   racial prejudice or discrimination

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But Kennedy Mitchum, a recent graduate of Drake University in Iowa, suggested that the definition should include a reference to systemic oppression. On May 28, she emailed American Merriam-Webster and pointed out that racism is “both prejudice combined with social and institutional power. It is a system of advantage based on skin color.”

Merriam-Webster replied the next day and said the issue needs to be addressed urgently. Merriam-Webster’s editorial manager Peter Sokolowski told the BBC that the wording of the second definition of racism will be “even more clear in our next release.” “It could be expanded to include the term systemic and it will certainly have one or two example sentences, at least,” he said.

But others felt like the issue has nothing to do with racism

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Others found the pricing was the issue

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And more people had to add to the debate

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