Charles Ramsey, an American dishwasher, did something that the Cleveland police and the FBI could not do: with the help of Angel Cordero he freed three women (and a girl) who had been missing for ten years, locked away in his neighbour’s house. The police had been called repeatedly about strange doings at the house – even reports of naked women being led like dogs – but did little. The very same police who let Anthony Sowell rape and murder 11 women.
In one week in May 2013 Charles Ramsey went from American hero to Internet buffoon to demonized brute. It was like America could not bear the sight of an ordinary, working-class black man as hero. It had to make fun of how he talks. It had to unearth his police record and splash it across the Internet. He either had to be laughed at or torn down. Brute or buffoon. The culture seems incapable of consuming him in any other form.
It gives lie to the idea that whites would stop being racist if blacks “proved themselves” worthy of their respect.
On Wednesday a buffoon: I saw the interview, the one where the reporter cuts him off when he said:
I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway!
I did not see anything to laugh at in the interview. Ramsey was just saying what took place. I thought it was a good interview, full of concrete images, like:
I’m eating my McDonald’s; I come outside; I see this girl going nuts.
[My neighbour's] got some big testicles to pull this off, bro, because we see this dude every day. I mean every day.
I barbecued with this dude! We ate ribs and whatnot, and listened to salsa music!
Then I saw the Internet memes and the Auto-Tune video that went viral. It was like Sweet Brown and Antoine Dodson all over again. Dodson saved his sister from a rapist. Brown escaped with her life from a fire. Both were working-class blacks. Both became a laughingstock on the Internet because of how they talk – even though there was nothing unintelligent or unclear in what they said.
On Thursday a brute: The Smoking Gun website made his police record public: he was in prison for beating his wife. He served his time, he has been clean for the past ten years, why is it necessary to bring this up? Is this what we do to people who save missing women?
Ramsey, to his credit, pointed out how that past has made him a better man:
There was a woman in distress, why turn your back on that? My father would have whooped the hell out of me if he had found out I would coward out. You tough in these bars, and you beat a woman, but you won’t help one out? … I’m the definition of a man.