No one is saying that Charles Ramsey isn't worthy of the "hero" mantle. He helped save three women who were held captive — brutally — in his Cleveland neighborhood for over a decade. But the Internet's instant meme-ification of this man — a lower-income black man talking about a horrible crime, played on repeat at the expense of stereotypes and with the blinders fully up about the truth — it's all a little gross, no?
Ramsey's interview with ABC's Cleveland affiliate is already a thing of Internet legend, not a day after it aired live on television. "You got to have some big testicles to pull this off, bro, because we see this dude every day. I mean every day," Ramsey told a WEWS reporter at the scene Monday night. "I barbecue with this dude. We eat ribs and what not and listen to salsa music. Know where I'm coming from?" Our Adam Clark Estes predicted it: "This man's going to be an Internet meme for sure," he wrote.
And Internet meme he is. A second interview, with the local Fox affiliate, is making the rounds today. The name Charles Ramsey has been trending on Twitter all day. There are Vines of his expressive face being passed around. There are thumbs-up GIFs. And, of course, there are so many awful autotune mixes of the first interview already, because some people still find that funny.
Already Bradley is drawing a lot of comparisons on the Internet, and all over Twitter and Facebook, to Antoine Dodson, the Bed Intruder guy who was auto-tuned the world over, but who also happened to be a guy who was talking about the alleged rape of his sister at an Alabama housing project. Indeed, both Ramsey and Dodson are black American men who gained instant fame by way of local television interviews in which, well, neither really seemed like he'd be on television before. Those are their only similarities, but those also may, unfortunately, be the only reasons why these two men have entered the consciousness of so many white American people with a Twitter account or a couple hundred Facebook friends. That they were both connected with horror goes eerily unmentioned. "Perhaps it's time for the world's meme artists to stop assuming that any black dude getting interviewed on local news about a crime he helped to foil can be reduced to some catch phrase or in-joke" Miles Klee writes over at Blackbook. "It's just baffling that we're trying to find a way to laugh about what is, in itself, a harrowing turn of events," Klee adds.
The Internet seems to lose sight of two very important distinctions sometimes. Charles Ramsey is a hero because he called the police and helped them save three women from reportedly being raped and impregnated in a basement for a decade. But he's a meme because he's black and on TV, and because so many choose to ignore the horrible realities of the crime. And, sure, pretty entertaining for a couple minutes, but we'd like to add our support to Klee's proposal: "Just this once let’s celebrate the man himself—without using .gifs or Photoshop," he writes. Even though we know that isn't happening.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.