Writer Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) presents the challenge for freethinkers of any age who question tradition … the “pigeon-hole way of life.”
“Grown people know that they do not always know the why of things, and even if they think they know, they do not know where and how they got the proof. Hence the irritation they show when children keep on demanding to know if a thing is so and how the grown folks got the proof of it. It is so troublesome because it is disturbing to the pigeon-hole way of life. It is upsetting because until the elders are pushed for an answer, they have never looked to see if it was so, nor how they came by what passes for proof to their acceptances of certain things as true. So, if telling their questioning young to run off and play does not suffice for an answer, a good slapping of the child’s bottom is held to be proof positive for anything from spelling Constantinople to why the sea is salt. It was told to the old folks and that had been enough for them, or to put it in Negro idiom, nobody didn’t tell ’em, but they heard. So there must be something wrong with a child that questions the gods of the pigeon-holes.”
Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road (1942)
Wow, I’ve never come across this creative, unusual analogy by Zora! As an American literature teacher, I read her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God many years ago, though at this point I don’t remember if I ever taught it (as I did Black Boy by Wright, Langston Hughes and other authors of the Harlem Renaissance, etc.). Thanks for this short article.
Yes, Daniel, Hurston had some powerful images and insights. Glad you were teaching significant voices.