I'm trying to work out a taxonomy of the various views someone might hold regarding the nature of racial groups. One of the views, sometimes called racial realism, takes races to be natural kinds something like species in biology. On this view, their basis lies in biological facts completely independently of any historical origins of racial groups, social facts about how we treat each other, or lingustic facts about how we use racial language. I'm not interested for the moment in whether this view is true. I'm interested in various forms it might take.
One element of this sort of view that virtually all the scholars who work in this area ignore is that the natural kinds of race may not involve anything particularly insidious. This view could hold that racial groupings are based on skin color, bone structure, hair type, and virtually nothing else. As long as its proponents insist that such characteristics would be enough to constitute a natural kind, then it's a realist view. This isn't the most historically influential racial realist view. That view holds that certain intellectual, moral, and probably several other characteristics must follow from being part of a certain racial group. But it is a kind of racial realism.
What I've been puzzling through for the last two or three hours is what some people mean by calling this sort of view "racial essentialism". First off, I'm not sure if that term is supposed to apply to the milder kind of racial realism that most people who work in this area ignore. Second, I'm not sure what it means even if it's just supposed to apply to the more extreme view that was used for so long (and still is in some quarters) to legitimate white supremacism and other forms of racism.
I can think of at least six things that someone might mean by calling such a view racial essentialism. I'm not interested in evaluating any of them at the moment. I'm just trying to come up with the possible views somewhat might call racial essentialism. This might be a little more technical than I usually get in my posts on this blog, but it's hard to reduce these descriptions to more ordinary language without losing the distinctions between the views, so I apologize if you get a little lost in the terminology. I might be able to clear up any confusion in the comments if anyone wants further clarification. Here are the six I've come up with so far, and I'm curious to see if anyone can think of any more:
RE1: Someone cannot change races. One's race is fixed. Anything that would appear to change one's race does not do so and is merely an apparent race change.
RE2: Someone with a racial essence couldn't have been of a different race no matter how many other things in the world had been difference. (This isn't about race changes but about someone's race from the outset.)
RE3: Certain properties are true of everyone in any racial kind, and those properties are essential to the person. Someone without those properties but otherwise just like the person would not be the same person. If the person could lose any of those properties, a new person would remain in the original person's place. One racial realist view might take skin color, actual or potential intelligence, and a particular moral status as essential properties included in a racial essence, and RE3 would mean that removing any of those properties would amount to killing the person.
RE4: The properties included in the racial essence are essential in the sense that no one can be a member of that race without having them. If someone is black, certain properties will follow. This leaves it open that someone can change races in the actual world or that someone who is one race in the actual world could have been of a different race. The property is essential to the kind but not necessarily to the person who is a member of that kind.
RE5: The properties included in the racial essences are essential both to the group as in RE4 and to the person as in RE3.
RE6: Racial properties are comparative and take the following form: it's a necessary truth that someone in group X is better in way Y than everyone in group Z. There are no properties that are essential to the group itself, since the racial properties might have been different. There are no properties essential to the individuals, since I might have been in another group from the one I'm in. But the necessary truth is that being in this group makes me better or worse in certain ways than everyone in some other group. There's a sense in which you might think of this as an essence, but the only properties here that might be called essential are relations between members of racial groups. In modal logic, the relation is described in parentheses, and the necessity operator is outside the parentheses. Thus no individual or group itself need have any essential properties. It's funny to call this essentialism, but there's something vaguely essential going on here. It's a relation that's essential to the set of the two kinds.
That's what I have so far. If anyone can think of other possible views that someone might use the term 'racial essentialism' to refer to, I'd appreciate hearing what those views are. I'd like a pretty exhaustive list if possible.