Volume 25, Issue 1, Spring/Summer 2005
The Complexity of Racial Formation and the Subversive Moral Imagination of the "Motley Crowd"
THIS ESSAY MAPS SOCIAL HISTORICAL AND SOCIAL SCIENTIFIC INTERPREtations of Whiteness to develop an understanding of the complexity and rootedness of Whiteness as a social construction. Mapping Whiteness helps clarify historical pitfalls in the interpretation of racial formation, including the problems of essentialism, dualism, and assimilationism. A social historical perspective retrieves the multiethnic and multiclass reality of the "motley crowd" —sailors, slaves, and commoners whose religious and radical praxis subverted the dominant political and economic forces of the revolutionary Atlantic. The subversive praxis of the motley crowd suggests an alternative moral imagination, moored by Black Catholic political theology, that affirms the historical complexity of racial formation, critiques and subverts White privilege, and celebrates the need to extend multiple struggles for social, political, and economic liberation.