Belief Versus Practice

By Maxjulian

July 13, 2007

Category: Uncategorized


From “Conquest” by Andrea Smith:

“…Many scholars have noted, Native religions are practice rather than belief centered…Christianity is defined by belief in a certain set of doctrinal principles about Jesus, the Bible, etc…What is of primary importance in Native religions is not being able to articulate belief in a certain set of doctrines, but being able to take part in the spiritual practice of one’s community.”

I was reading comments during a recent blog war where a brother asserted that he’d observed a tremedous amount of black hatred among the “peace and black-militant-love” crowd who populates that particular site. Something struck me about what he said. Some of the most vicious haters of black people on the ‘Net, are so-called “pro-black/freedom fighting/black man or woman-loving” (at least in name) black folks.

These folks appear to be completely clueless as to the venom and hate boiling out of them like bitter lava, that scalds those with the misfortune of being black and having a contrary opinion to theirs.

Then I recalled this idea of Native or indigenous practice versus the espousal of a belief system. One requires that your behavior be congruent with your spirituality, or your spiritual/political rhetoric. In fact, spirituality and behavior are synonymous in the practice-centered equation. The belief-centered mode, which is decidely European in nature, requires only that one quasi- understand and/or, parrott a set of principles about their particular religion/ideology – a continuance of the compartmentalization/desacralization process that Marimba Ani has highlighted.    Belief, without any anchorage practice, is enough.

Love is almost entirely absent from these sites, as it is from this American society; the European-ness of these militants in terms of their behavior (as opposed to their dogma) is quite revealing. There is great intelligence, wisdom, cleverness on some of these sites, but in love’s place is a fear, a terror, a self-hatred projected outward, at those who challenge their mask. Mask.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar


We Wear the Mask


WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.


Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.


We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

Today, many of us wear another kind of mask, a mask that debilitates individually and collectively. Those who wear this mask are oblivious to the havoc they create, insisting that they are real, authentic, infallible – tru black. When children create masks for protection, they sometimes forget to discard them. Instead, they squeeze their adult form, mind and spirit into the protective armor of their little kid. Pouring academic, technical info into a ‘grown-baby’ creates an educated fool. Though it may the wearer, that facade can’t fool everybody.

You can’t see this charade unless you’ve gone on your own emotional/spiritual inner voyage.

Do you have the courage to take that trip?  Are you still on it – or have you graduated to “omniscient Negritude?”

Do you wear the mask?

Do you know how and when to take it off?

10 Responses to “Belief Versus Practice”

  1. You cause me to think of many applicable ideas here. In the interest of keeping this brief, I will just list them:

    1. The European-conceived usage of belief-over-practice came right out of the mind-body theoretical split that developed in the Age of “Reason” and has so disconnected us from our Selves in addition to disconnecting us from each other.

    2. Zen practice could also be used as an example of the difference between trying to “think your way to enlightenment” and “living your way to enlightment.”

    3. The Twelve Step Movement also relies on practicing principles rather than espousing belief systems.

    4. Indigenous, zen, and twelve step spiritual practices tend to smooth people out and make them deeper, while Western-driven thought processes tend to make people more strident and self-aggrandizing.

    Just some thoughts.

  2. Great Post

    Amongst black blogs that are trying to ” promote black awareness” there are a few bad ones that use the same slave divide and conquer ideology to get thier point across.

    It is poignant that you use the mask concept . As a 40 year old women who is computer literate , and recently in the last 6 months started posting to blogs , I am appalled at the boring mental mind fuck by some black bloggers. It’s regression, Can it be that said bloggers feel say what you want on a blog where no one can see you , and pretend to be something you aren’t .

    I visited a blog , had a post about blacks living in europe, what turned my stomach sour is when said blogger , delineated james baldwins achievements , by stating that he probably went to europe , because it is more accepting of same sex partnerships. James Baldwin , can be trivialized like this , one of the most prolific writers of our time , a man who went on national tv and gave it to white journalists like no other ? I was shocked and appalled . Or the blogs who focus on black beauty , using the same divide and conquer tactics , straight versus natural hair , being a nazi natural , and any commenter who disagrees with you , you attack and cause your follower commenters to attack as well , and then play the poor me role , when all the time u just wanted to generate more comments so you could look attractive to advertisers. This is boring , charades are boring unless you are playing the literal game

    How do you tell someone how to comment on your blog , aren’t blogs supposed to be a form of communication , and perhaps just perhaps one of your readers do not have the same view as yours , or possibly thier response is strong , is this incorrect, it’s not like they are talking nonsense or spewing hate ; Or is the unwritten purpose of blogs , that all like minded individuals congreagate to said blog , and if you don’t agree don’t come . Or is it your a mouse in your physical life , and this is the way for you to exert your mental insecurities ? If this is the case , that you can accept no view but your own , then how can you grow as a person , and if you cannot grow as a person , how can you hope to influence a movement .

    thank you andrea for your thought provoking article !

  3. I met Andrea Smith recently. We both spoke at the “Inadmissible Comparisons” conference in NYC this spring. Andrea gave a great talk on the evolving strategies used by women of color organizing across racial lines against heteropatriarchy and white supremacy. The talk was very instructive for activists in other movements, both in terms of basic strategic thinking and also to the question of how to be in better solidarity with people in other struggles, which you really must be if you’re going to be comparing your struggle to theirs. The DVD of her talk is available via United Poultry Concerns, an animal rights organization that did a fabulous job of organizing a true forum on the contentious question of whether, when, and how to compare human and animal suffering. Anarchist Panther Ashanti Alston, who I’ve mentioned to you before, also spoke.

    A lot of Andrea’s talk was based on her chapter “Heteropatriarchy and the Three Pillars of White Supremacy: Rethinking Women of Color Organizing” in the INCITE! anthology, Color of Violence, which you really ought to read if you’ve not yet.

  4. Changeseeker: Exactly. Have you seen/read Marimba Ani’s “Yurugu?” Fantastic critique of European culture. Its out of print but it can be had. Highly recommend it.

    Byrd: I read the “European” post and it was so absurd. I saw how they spoke to and about you. Fascinating. There was no give, no nuance. It was all very black and white. And then, there’s this projection regarding “motives.” They assume the worst “you hate black people…blah, blah, blah…,” on the basis of what?!

    I mean, this is the affect that racism has had on us as a people – pure-hairsplitting-insanity; but rather than healing, they take the path of least resistance and inflict their unhealed, unexamined baggage onto others.

    BTW: Andrea Smith didn’t write this post only the stuff in quotations up top.

  5. Oh, and Byrd: The ringleader of the crew lives in Europe! She just moved back from the colony to the Mother Country. I mean, if you’re so black, you should be in Africa, right?! She has reasons that are valid for living in the country that, Andrew Young claimed, “invented racism.” If she has pure motives for that, how can she question the motives of other black folk who want to live in Europe? People who need to dumb the world down to what their limited minds can understand and then get other like minds to cheerlead/abuse/oppress is quite amazing.

    Pattrice: Is that work of Andrea’s online? I have Conquest, though I haven’t finished the whole thing. Its an amazingly dense book with incredible insights.

    Peace Ya’ll

  6. I already own it, Max. But thanks for the tip. We’re definitely on the same page…of that book and several others. :^)

  7. Growing up I was the only little black girl in my neighborhood. To counter this my mother made sure I went to an all black elementary school. In the ninth grade, my Father’s fear for my chastity forced me into a very euro-centric Catholic High School. I never understood why he thought white kids didn’t have sex. By the time I graduated High School I had perfected the duality of my personality.

    There was a face I wore at work and school. The one that said I am a credit to my race and I am educated. This face set white people at ease and allowed my elders to voice their pride at my accomplishments. This was what my friends and I refered to as the “fake *itch”

    She was fake because I had to compress my personality down into this person who could never be wrong, who always had to be perfect, who smiled even when she was pissed. This persona was the person that I had to work daily at just “being”. She got the jobs. She got the promotions and occasionally it was she who got the man. Her whole purpose was not to scare the white folk. She was hard to upkeep. This chic was high maintenance.

    Then there was the hidden self. The one few people met. This was my girl. She was not pretentious. She was real in everything she said and did. She lived life loud even if it was in the shadows. She was wild and honest. She was down, raw AND… she was miserable.

    She was miserable because she never got out to see the sun. She felt wilted and unappreciated.

    Then one day I woke up and realized that you cannot successfully live your life on both sides of the fence. I am black. Period. That’s it. And no matter how appealing the opportunities are there comes a point when one must choose.

    The choice I made was to stop with the “Fake *itch” and allow Ingrid to shine. It took a lot of work. It took a lot of soul searching and it is an evolving process because as I grow I still change. But at the end of the day I no longer suffer from a split personality. I just am who I am and surprisingly the me I kept hidden knows how to behave in public and get promotions too. 😉

  8. i have been off the radar 4 a while but this is a good post. i know exactly what european post you are referring to cos i posted a comment there too and i was not even granted a reply from the poster. whatever. it isn’t sour beans. some people just dont want u to reach out to them. some people just have to be left to their own devices and if they want to be the ‘constables’ of the black race, let them wallow in the illusion that they are.

    it really f&cks me off (sorry for the swearing, FS) when people think that if they say something, then it is written in gold and that they are immediately right blah blah blah. It made me realise that there are some black people that you just can’t unite with despite the fact that black unity is the cause.

  9. No doubt, Aulelia. I have some compassion for these folks because, inspite of their insanity, they are black. But they make it very difficult to stay compassionate for long. The Reverend Ike (black American preacher) said it best, “the best thing you can do for po’ folks is not be like them.”

    I’m gonna stay openminded, flexible, teachable – and leave the religiousity to them. They are like a sect, a cult of hatefulness in the service, supposedly of “black love.” There are a lot of things going on over at her site, but “black love” ain’t one of them. Black contempt and self-hatred-projected at other black people who don’t meet her narrow definition of what “black love is,” is what she traffics in.

    They’re dealing intellectual crack over there; they get high on hate, without seeing how destructive their behavior is to the black folks they claim to love.

  10. […] @ the Freeslave: “belief vs practice” & “you think you’ve heard this one […]

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