Wednesday, May 8, 2013

5/8/13 Just Do the Right Thing, or Why Charles Ramsey Rocks

The day following Charles Ramsey's initial breathless, wonderful recounting of Amanda Berry's rescue, here's where he's at:

Anderson Cooper asks him at 5:07: "What does it feel like, to have been living next to this for a year?"

Ramsey pauses. "See, now, that's why I've been having trouble sleeping.  Yesterday, the only thing that keep me from losing sleep, was the lack of money.  .  . So, now that that's going on [nodding toward the kidnapper's house], and I could have done this last year, not this hero stuff, just do the right thing . . ."

When Cooper asks him if he's going to able to collect the FBI reward for the missing girls? He pulls out the his paycheck he's just picked up, and says that money should go to the victims, because he's got a job. (Even if a lack of money used to be his primary concern.)

The world needs more Charles Ramseys in every neighborhood.

Now, I've read many commentaries over the past day questioning whether Ramsey's insta-interweblebrity is somehow racist at its core, the niggling question of whether his blackness or his poorness is why  he's been auto-tuned and meme-d into a million configurations, literally, overnight.

But, for me, Charles Ramsey is so fascinating precisely because he makes such questions more complex the harder you try to work them out. 

He's thoughtful and coherent, and just because he peppers his sentences with "bro" does nothing to detract from his communication. I was irritated with the local interviewer who captured his first telling when he immediately tried to end the interview after Ramsey's insightful statement, "I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl runs into a black man's arms, I said, 'Something is wrong here'."

What was it that the interviewer didn't want to "get into" with that statement?  Because Cleveland is considered one of the remaining hotbeds of old school segregated racism?  Because for Ramsey, it was the defining moment for him to realize how serious the situation was?

In the interview above, unlike the shorter one the night of their discovery, he mentions another neighbor who is actually first on the porch, but runs away as Amanda screams for help.

There's your trouble. It has nothing to do with race. Just do the right thing.

Or maybe it does matter. Maybe race is everything on the flip side. As a white woman, maybe my naive colorblindness is taking away what is fundamentally a part of why Charles Ramsey was willing to leave his own house, kick out the bottom of a neighbor's door, and call 911 instead of just eating his dinner. (McDonalds owes this man, big.)

It's just that the people writing articles suggesting our interest in him is to laugh because of the way he expresses himself or looks makes no sense to me. Living in Navasota for so many years, and Huntsville and Houston before that, it sounds perfectly natural to me.

It comes down to this: Ramsey heard her cries, and, not knowing who she was, or caring that he might be interfering in his neighbor's business, just helped her.

They can auto-tone Little Pretty White Thing and slap slogans on his screen capture. It doesn't change the fact that this man, regardless of anything else, had the integrity (or, in his words, but with the same meaning, the cajones) to just do the right thing. 

I hope that helps him sleep better in the nights to come.


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