It’s the kind of story that echoes citations of postmodernist linguistic maneuvering in the decades-long battle over the politicization of language. (See more at MRCTV’s BLOG)
An excellent definition incorporating the old Webster’s and the Safire Political Dictionary:
Webster’s says this: a. belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
So we see that Webster’s main definition are based on a belief in a genetic superiority of one ethnicity (falsely called race) over another. A more in-depth definition comes from Safire’s Political Dictionary, and reads (in-part):
racism Originally, an assumption that an individual’s abilities and potential were determined by his biological race, and that some races were inherently superior to others; now, a political-diplomatic accusation of harboring or practicing such theories.
“This word [racism],” wrote Harvard Professor J. Anton De Haas in November 1938, “has come into use the last six months, both in Europe and this country… Since so much has been said about conflicting isms, it is only natural that a form was chosen which suggested some kind of undesirable character.” In fact, racism came into use two years earlier, in his 1936 book The Coming American Fascism, Lawrence Dennis wrote, “If … it be assumed that one of our values should be a type of racism which excludes certain races from citizenship, then the plan of execution should provide for the annihilation, deportation, or sterilization of the excluded races.”
Racism, a shortening of racialism, was at first directed against Jews. In the nineteenth century, anti-Semites who foresaw a secular age in which religion might not be such a popular rallying force against Jews put forward the idea of Jewishness being less a religion than a race. Adolf Hitler, with his “master race” ideology, turned theory into savage practice….
Note also that the above started to get into what Hitler thought. See more via my letter to a teacher at Arroyo Seco [my sons school] many years ago: