Cleveland kidnapping: Race, guns and a heroic neighbor

Charles Ramsey speaking to media near the home where three kidnapped women were rescued in Cleveland.
Charles Ramsey speaking to media near the home where three kidnapped women were rescued in Cleveland.

Without question, Charles Ramsey is a character. The Ohio man who rescued Amanda Berry from years of captivity gave an epic television interview on Tuesday in which he delivered what is surely one of the most brilliant lines ever uttered on national television: "Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway."

In one comical comment, delivered with nods and a smile, Ramsey said a lot about race in America. We all knew what he meant. Knowing laughter rang out from those around Ramsey.

When I heard his remark, I laughed - and gasped that he had the nerve to say it. Throughout his interviews, Ramsey, a dishwasher at a Cleveland restaurant, has shown a lot of nerve. But he has shown an equal amount of character (no matter what documents have surfaced about Ramsey's criminal record).

Ramsey said he heard someone screaming for help at the house next door. He didn't walk away. He went over to help. More remarkable was why. "I figured it was a domestic-violence dispute," he told Cleveland's NewsChannel5. Most people would walk away, thinking it too dangerous to get involved or that the dispute is none of their business.

Asked by CNN's Anderson Cooper how he felt about being a "hero," Ramsey demurred as a real hero would: "No, no, no. Bro, I'm a Christian, an American. I'm just like you. We bleed same blood, put our pants on the same way. It's just that you got to put that - being a coward, and I don't want to get in nobody's business. You got to put that away for a minute."

When asked about a possible reward, Ramsey told Cooper he isn't interested. "I tell you what you do, give it to them [the women]. Because if folks been following this case since last night . . . you know I got a job anyway. Just went picked it up, paycheck. . . . So yes, take that reward and give it to" them, he said.

Democratic strategist and commentator Zerlina Maxwell tweeted on Wednesday, "If anything Charles Ramsey proves that bystander intervention WORKS and u don't need any special training to do it." To which @RobMyers1968 added, "(A)nd Charles Ramsey did it without a gun!"

And he did it seemingly without fear or thought to his personal safety. We need more neighbors willing to act as Charles Ramsey did. We all could stand to be more like that.

Jonathan Capehart writes for The Washington Post.


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