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Charles Ramsey is a legitimate American hero. He doesn’t want fame. He doesn’t want money. He’s an unassuming, raspy-voiced dishwasher with a refreshing desire to help people in crisis.

He’s a brave black man who deserves recognition for his unselfish efforts and I hope police acknowledge his courage.

Ramsey was responsible for freeing Amanda Berry and two other women who had been held captive at his neighbor’s home in Cleveland for 10 years, and today, the women are free from terror and Ramsey is being praised, correctly, as a hero.

What if Ramsey hadn’t shown the guts to help these women? Would they still be captives?

Even though the police have downplayed Ramsey’s role in freeing the women, the 911 tapes tell the true story of a man who stepped up to save Berry, 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Georgina DeJesus, who is about 23.

All three women vanished when they were teenagers between 2002 and 2004. Police said they were raped and forced into multiple pregnancies over a horrific span of a decade. Police also said the 6-year-old girl is Berry’s daughter.

“I knew something was wrong when a little, pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms,” Ramsey told CNN. “Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway.”

What a revealing statement about race. And here’s another noteworthy comment: Ramsey said the little girl had to be “homeless” or “got problems” to rely on a black man for her safety. He’s probably right. I can’t recall a situation where a black man has shared his feelings about race so candidly after being involved in a dramatic rescue.

So it Ramsey also an unsuspecting racial healer?

A CNN anchorwoman suggested that Ramsey may have helped improve race relations in America. That may be a stretch, but it’s uplifting to see a black man on television associated with a positive news event; a black man being hailed as a hero instead of being vilified as a defendant. Perhaps some who only see black men as thugs and gangsters may view black men differently after hearing Ramsey’s story.

“Bro, I’m a Christian, an American, and just like you,” Ramsey told CNN. “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.”

Ramsey wasn’t trying to make race a central issue in the rescue of the three women. He’s not a college-trained expert on race relations. He was simply speaking from his heart, but in speaking openly, and without a political agenda, Ramsey indirectly shined a bright light on race in America – a topic most folks tend to sidestep.

Indeed, Ramsey’s poignant remark about a pretty little white girl running into a black man’s arms has gone viral and is perhaps a more powerful summation about race than any professional pundit could ever articulate.

COMMENTARY: Charles Ramsey: American Hero or Racial Healer?  was originally published on

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