William Yeats said it best when, with a phrase made famous by Chinua Achebe several decades later, he described the nature of the world as it is:
Things fall apart, wrote Yeats. The centre cannot hold.
A Look Back
Growing up, few books had a more lasting impact on my life than those of Mildred D. Taylor.
Taylor’s books (a 5-part historical fiction series for children) cover the lives of the Logans, an African-American family living in Mississippi around the time of the Great Depression.
In the series’ best-known book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, we’re introduced to a girl named Cassie, the story’s main character and narrator.
Cassie, like most African-Americans in the Depression-era South, has a hard life.
Running rampant through nearly every aspect of her story are the devastating effects of racism, and the common tragedies faced by nearly every society that struggles to overcome a history of slavery.
Taylor assigns the book’s sequel a title that couldn’t be more fitting.
It’s a plea I made many times, myself, while reading Cassie’s sad story, and even more times since:
Let the circle be unbroken.
A World Reimagined
Though the U.S. and many other countries continue to face struggles in moving beyond a marred past, we can say with confidence that racism and slavery have truly declined.
Cassie’s story- one filled with lynchings, segregation, and a perpetual fear of those who are different- is now rare indeed.
Faced with more than our own fair share of overwhelming darkness, it’s easy for those of us in the 21st century to forget just how far we’ve come.
More importantly, it’s easy to forget what it took to get us where we now are. It took:
the boldness to have a dream few others could see,
the courage to refuse an order no one else was willing to refuse,
the audacity to not only re-imagine the world, but to work to make that world a reality.
That, I believe, is the difference between the way the world is and the way the world could be.
For the circle is broken. It continues to break, even now, even today. It’s true, what Yeats and Achebe said many years ago…
Things do fall apart.
So let’s help put them back together.
*Photo Credit: James Whitesmith (Creative Commons)
This week’s topic (also known as the Weekly Curiosity) is racism. Check back each weekday at 12:34pm for a new post exploring this idea. In the meantime, here are three ways you can join the quest: