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By William David Hart (auth.)

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They seek refuge—that is, in a Platonic form, an ideal in the mind of god, an essence that is beyond the reach of white supremacy. In contrast, the proponents of the Church Narrative acknowledge if not embrace notions of social change in light of which the soul of black folk may be little more than an index of their historical experiences. But there is a powerful nostalgia in this narrative for the same volksgeist that animates the Soul Narrative: a principle of black identity, unity, and essence that traverses space-time and yet somehow remains the same.

Avey no longer recognized herself. 16 A kind of affluence-induced Alzheimer’s had alienated Avey from herself. If Avey’s affluence produced misrecognition, it also led her to acknowledge nightmare images she had long repressed: a white police officer beating a helpless black man into bloody submission on a rainy night. On second thought, the only thing raining that night on Halsey Street, many years ago, was the officer’s billy club, as he pummeled the man. This nightmare kept company with day terrors, bizarre visions that seemed to threaten her sanity.

Why are areas that are geographically near if not contiguous with the African continent, such as the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East, not Africa? Except for a hidden appeal to an essentialist notion of race, why should we imagine that the culture and behaviors that Asante calls African should obey lines on a map that was drawn by European cartographers? At this point I merely pose these questions. Three Narratives of Black Religion 29 But Asante’s failure to address them forthrightly detracts from his argument.

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