This morning I woke up to the celebrated news that three young women who were abducted around a decade ago were found in a seemingly inauspicious house in Cleveland, Ohio. Well, they were found, yes, but rescued, really. According to news reports, one of the abducted women, the brave Amanda Berry, began screaming from the front door of the house when her captors were gone. Two neighbors heard her screams and broke down the door, liberating her, two other women, and a young child. When I heard the story, I thought of the contrast between this rescue and the Kitty Genovese murder in 1964, when neighbors heard the screams of a woman being stabbed but did nothing, and for a brief moment I felt like today's saga represented progress. The two men who responded to Ms. Berry's screams are true heroes.
And then my facebook newsfeed became inundated with links to various news and gossip websites that had posted a news interview with one of these heroes, Charles Ramsey, hailing him as the latest Antoine Dodson. Mr. Ramsey is a middle-aged black man with a missing front tooth who helped kick down the front door of the Castro house. He described the day's events to a local newscaster with astonishment and bewilderment - pretty much the same emotions any of us would have felt in his position, assuming any of us would have had the courage to approach the house to begin with. He also said he was eating McDonald's when he heard the cries for helps, and that he had barbequed and eaten ribs with the neighbors now accused of abducting and imprisoning the women. The video of the interview went viral, along with "best of" lists of quotes from Mr. Ramsey.
The racist and classist undertones of this popular reaction are undeniable. If we want to have a conversation beyond Mr. Ramsey's heroism, we should examine the last comment he made to the local reporter (which, from the looks of the video, may have made the reporter end the interview): "Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms."