Charles Ramsey is a true American hero who happens to be a funny and engaging storyteller. He deserves national attention, but not in the form of being the next auto-tuned “star” on social media.
After breaking down the door of a neighbor to help a distressed woman he didn’t know, Ramsey ended up helping to facilitate the rescue of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight who had been missing in Cleveland for a decade. Berry’s young daughter was also rescued. Ramsey has been hailed as a hero by almost everyone, but more often than not coverage of the story has focused on his appearance and/or manner of speaking instead of his heroic acts or the courage and strength of the women involved.
It’s easy to see why Ramsey’s initial interviews went viral. As we’ve seen with people like Antoine Dodson and Sweet Brown, social media and hence traditional national media outlets love low-income, black, non-camera-shy people with engaging storytelling styles serving punchy one-liners.
Ramsey certainly provided that with quotes that included: “I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway!”
A “hilarious” hero?
Look in the comments section of any of the stories about Ramsey and you’re bound to see comments from black people who chastise the media for seeming to exploit Ramsey as the next “ghetto superstar” for page hits and giggles. There’s a reason behind that.
WATCH Rev. Al Sharpton defend Ramsey on Politics Nation
For decades, way before the advent of social media, the running joke in the black community has been that news reporters always seem to seek out the one black person in a crowd who possesses the most negative stereotypes. If everyone on the street where there was a local fire is dressed for work and gives eloquent commentary, except that one neighbor with rollers in her hair and a penchant for yelling, guess who’s making the 5 o’clock news?
The anger that some black people feel when folks like Charles Ramsey are given space on the national stage is typically complex. Yes, there’s some finger-wagging at media outlets for the promotion of what they consider to be yet another hyperbolic representation of the “type” of African-American that seems to dominate TV. But, is there also some shame that black people such as Charles Ramsey even exist?
Or are we perhaps perturbed that someone from Charles Ramsey’s world of blacks — who are unfortunately looked down upon by others in our community — could have broken out of what might be called the “only black people know them” space?