The tedium that descended upon the nation’s politics last winter when Bush II ascended the presidential throne was relieved briefly in the waning days of the Clinton era by the bitter breezes that wafted around some of the new President’s Cabinet appointments. After repeatedly muttering his meaningless campaign slogan, “I’m a uniter, not a divider,” Mr. Bush suddenly found himself accused of the horrid and unpardonable offense of dividing when he nominated certain individuals of whom the real rulers of the country did not approve. “Uniting,” as the former governor of Texas should have known and probably did know, means doing what the Zeitgeist (and those who craft it) want; “dividing” means doing what they don’t want, and some of the cabinet nominees seemed for a short time to be the kind of undesirables who entertain ideas of their own and harbor sneaky inclinations to act on them. For a few weeks, it was uncertain whether the President would cave in to the demand of his political opponents in Congress and the mass media and dump the objectionable nominees or whether he and the nominees would contrive some means of placating their foes and persuading them they had no intention of bucking their wishes or challenging their power. What was never even contemplated, of course, was that the President and his prospective ministers would defy their critics and actually dare assert their own authority and leadership.

The most controversial of the Cabinet nominees was former Missouri Senator John Ashcroft, whose opposition to a Clinton-appointed black judge as well as several other thoughtcrimes immediately sparked the predictable accusations of “racism,” “white supremacy,” and “insensitivity.” A black former congressman, Missouri Democrat William Clay, mocked Mr. Bush’s professions of “reaching out” to blacks by comparing Mr. Ashcroft’s appointment to the Ku Klux Klan’s attempts to reach out “to blacks with nooses and burning crosses,” while a small-time left-wing witch hunter in Missouri breathlessly declared that “an examination of Ashcroft’s recent record shows Principalities & Powers by Samuel Francis that he has actively cultivated ties to white supremacists and extreme hate groups.” The “white supremacists and extreme hate groups” turned out to be merely the Southern Partisan, a Confederate heritage periodical whose editor-in-chief last year ran the South Carolina presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain. (It’s interesting that Honest John never once opened his trap to defend either his ally or his ally’s magazine.) This “linkage” was soon turned into political fodder on which the media, the Congressional Black Caucus, and Senate Democrats were able to browse for several weeks.

Mr. Ashcroft was confirmed as attorney general, but only because he danced to the tunes called by his and the new President’s enemies. The nominee hastened to repudiate any sympathies for the Confederacy, its leadership, or its political heritage that his interview with the Partisan might have suggested. “Slavery is abhorrent,” Mr. Ashcroft gushed to his inquisitors. “Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president. . . I would have fought with Gen. Grant. . . I believe that racism is wrong.”

Of course, at no time in his life had Mr. Ashcroft, who seems to be a dim but decent enough chap, ever uttered any thought or opinion that would insinuate he believed “racism” in any conventional or traditional meaning to be right. However vague the word has always been, its traditional usage generally had something to do with race and the claim by members of one race that another race was in some sense inferior—intellectually, morally, etc. By the conventional meaning, not only is Mr. Ashcroft not guilty, but his critics were not able to produce any evidence whatsoever to suggest that he was. At the most, they merely inferred his supposed beliefs about race from his stated views about the Confederacy and his various “links” with people and groups who also were never shown to be “racist.”

A few weeks after the Ashcroft hearings, yet another controversy about “racism” erupted, this time on American college campuses. Neoconservative activist David Horowitz placed a series of ads in college newspapers arguing against the budding movement in support of reparations for slavery, Mr. Horowitz’s ads, probably deliberately designed to be innocuous, offered ten reasons why reparations are “a bad idea for blacks— and racist” to boot. Some college newspapers actually dared to publish the ads and, not infrequently, soon found themselves under siege for their own “racism.” At the University of Wisconsin’s Badger Herald, a mob demanded the resignation of the editor, sporting signs with the slogan, “Badger Herald Racist.”

Similar incidents are well known, both on college campuses and elsewhere, but the point is that what the targets are being accused of has nothing whatsoever to do with what they have said or thought or done about race as a biological or social phenomenon. “Racism” today has nothing to do with race; it has to do with politics. “Racism” is simply a set of beliefs or actions that oppose a certain political agenda, and that agenda is largely initiated by and closely associated with nonwhites and pushed by their white allies.

Thus, opposing reparations, as the mob indicated, is itself a “racist” act—not because the opponents of reparations think all blacks are naturally inferior and therefore should have been and should still be slaves, but simply because reparations are now part of the black racial-political agenda, and anyone who opposes that agenda is a racist. Opposing affirmative action is also racist—not because its opponents are said to hate blacks and other nonwhites and want to repress and exploit them, but for any reason. The same is largely true of supporting Confederate flags and symbols or opposing immigration or arguing in favor of “racial profiling” by police. Back in the 1980’s, white South Africans would tell me that “apartheid” had been largely abolished in their country and that even radical critics, black or white, would have to recognize that truth. I always tried to make them see that “abolishing apartheid” had nothing to do with racial equality, that their critics had little interest in that, and that what they really wanted was black domination, “Apartheid” would cease to exist not when South African blacks were able to eat in desegregated restaurants and vote in parliamentary elections but only when they had taken over the government of the country—which is exactly what happened. “Apartheid” ended the day Nelson Mandela and his Communist Party-dominated African National Congress came to power, and not a moment before.

“Racism,” concisely redefined, is merely opposition to nonwhite power or to any measure that promises such power or support for any measure or institution that thwarts such power. The rationale behind the new meaning of the word is the claim that in American, Western, or white societies, nonwhites are—by definition—subordinate groups, and the dominant society is therefore (also by definition) “white supremacist.” It is not necessarily white supremacist because of the formal legal and political structure (as in South Africa under apartheid or the segregated South), any more than it is “racist” because of the particular ideological rationalization of the domination. “Racism” in this sense is no longer confined to those who adhere to hereditarian views of intelligence and behavior. That is one form of the new racism, but by no means the only one. In the ideological Weltanschauung from which the new meaning is derived, scientific theories and empirical studies that depict nonwhites as being in some respects inferior to whites are merely one means by which white dominance is rationalized, but religious, moral, social, historical, and other nonscientific rationales are also available and tend to be favored by the white ruling class over the rationale of biological “racism.” The liberal-neoconservative ideal of a “color-blind society” is also racist, because it is used to reject measures like affirmative action that empower nonwhites. By the same reasoning, nonwhites themselves can also be “racists”—Clarence Thomas springs to mind—as the white ruling class conscripts and rewards nonwhites willing to offer justifications for their domination. Moreover, opposition to “hate crime” legislation, “sensitivity” training, immigration, any “civil rights” measure, law, or policy, or to anything else the nonwhite agenda demands is also racist, regardless of the reasons offered. You can argue against affirmative action because it’s inherently unjust to everyone or support the Confederate flag because not many white Confederates owned slaves or be against reparations because they are bad for blacks or oppose immigration because it increases population growth or for whatever other reasons you can concoct, but it doesn’t matter. You are still a “racist” and a supporter of “white supremacy” because what you want to do or stop doing thwarts nonwhite power.

The new meaning of “racism” is not a verbal trick or a political charade. It derives logically from the worldview that regards the dominant society as repressive and exploitative of nonwhites for the benefit of whites, and, granted its premises, it makes at least as much sense as the older and more conventional meaning of the word. Indeed, the new meaning becomes increasingly obvious as we see how the term is actually used and deployed against political figures like Mr. Ashcroft, President Bush, or Justice Thomas.

Still, the new meaning is not as obvious as it should be, for the simple reason that “conservatives”—I use the term in its broadest possible meaning, to include Mr. Bush and Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Horowitz—still don’t get it. They don’t get it because their tactics in fighting the racially tinged measures they oppose seem always to presuppose the old definition of the word and therefore to aim at all costs at not being tarred with the “racist” label. Let’s get a black nominee or spokesman; then they can’t possibly accuse us of being racists. Lets not use hereditarian arguments but just talk about the “culture”; then they can’t possibly accuse us of being racists. Let’s not say reparations or affirmative action or immigration or sanctions on South Africa are bad for whites or for white Western societies and civilization, but say instead they’re bad for blacks, for immigrants, for nonwhites; then they can’t possibly accuse us of being racists.

The problem, of course, is that they do always accuse you of being racists, despite your pathological phobia of being so called and the bizarre lengths to which you are willing to go, distorting and weakening your own case, to avoid and deny die accusation. They accuse you of being racists precisely because, no matter what you say or how you say it, you are, by the new meaning of the term, exactly that. You may oppose the nonwhite political agenda for precisely the reasons you offer—because it really is, by your values, bad for blacks or immigrants or the environment or simply unjust—but the reasons don’t matter, and no one on the other side of the racial power struggle gives a hoot about them. What they do give a hoot about is the triumph of their agenda and the power it will yield, and anyone who is not on board with that agenda, for whatever reasons they offer, is a “racist” and an apologist for “white supremacy.”

Failure to recognize the new meaning of “racism” therefore constitutes a serious vulnerability on the part of those who oppose the nonwhite agenda, because by planning their strategy as though the conventional meaning of “racism” still applied, they do nothing to avoid the charge of “racism” in its new meaning and waste an immense amount of their time and energies trying to avoid being identified as “racists” in any sense. Their enemies can then avoid any serious debate about the issues on their agenda and spend all their time lobbing accusations and making the opponents of the agenda jump through hoops—which is exactly what Mr. Ashcroft did and what Mr. Bush has been doing ever since he was elected. But the new, political meaning of “racism” is so broad that it effectively strips the word of the old pejorative associations that serious political figures understandably wish to avoid. Under the new meaning, the term has no more pejorative connotation than “conservative” or “liberal”; indeed, it is more or less identical with the former term, and much of the purpose of the new meaning is precisely to demonize and delegitimize conservatism of any kind. Nevertheless, the word only retains any negative implications because of its linkages to the old meaning—which is why it survives at all in the national political lexicon — not because of the actual content of the new one.

Conservatives who seriously oppose the nonwhite political agenda (as serious conservatives will and should) can therefore expect to be called “racists,” and while it is not useful to court the label, the new meaning it has acquired removes any compelling reason to avoid it, and certainly any reason to obsess over it. As the revolutionary and totalitarian character of the anti-white racial-political agenda becomes more and more obvious, those who push that agenda will discover that the “racists” who oppose them are more and more numerous, until what they falsely call “racism”—so far from being “extremist” or a “fringe” movement—has evolved into the political and cultural mainstream, and conservatives of every stripe will say, “We are all ‘racists’ now.”