“Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” The quote, often attributed to Albert Einstein, Narcotics Anonymous, Rita Mae Brown, Kipling, Benjamin Franklin and a Chinese proverb, riles me every time I hear it. Taken out of its original context, said with a hint of smugness, much like “and how’s that working for you?” to chastise or indirectly shame someone to change a behavior, only succeeds in roiling the memory of life-long struggle.
Insane then, was Martin Luther King, Jr. and the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Insane were the parents who ushered their babes to demonstrate July 15, 1963 to be jailed, attacked by dogs, and blasted by fire hoses with water pressure set so high it ripped clothes from bodies, rolled women over cars, peeled bark off trees, and separated brick from mortar.
Insane were the Freedom Riders and Montgomery Bus boycotters who repeatedly crossed boundaries, suffered beatings, burning, lynching. Insane were the thousands upon thousands linked arm in arm refusing to stay in their place, instead, facing uniformed mobs day after day, year after year. Insane were the Little Rock Nine. Insane also my cousin, Patricia Godbolt White, one of The Norfolk 17 who in 1959 dared integrate the state of Virginia’s Norview High School.
Insane then my mother for raising three children in a world that thought us less than—who refused to bow to the hatred and ignorance of the America of her time. A woman who showed us how to hold our heads high, surmount countless obstacles, and rely on ourselves.
Beware, for I have inherited and embrace my ancestors’ insanity. I continue the fight expecting, no demanding, better results. Now, how’s that working for you?