Cleveland’s Charles Ramsey—hood or hero?

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To put this in context, think back to when Black civil rights protesters dressed up in their Sunday’s best, knowing they were going to get physically assaulted by police and White supremacists. Then, as now, image matters. Especially when one of us appears on TV. Still, there are plenty of people in our community who look like Ramsey and their speech and appearance make them no less valuable than the best dressed and most articulate among us.

Some have suggested than many Whites take delight in seeing Blacks caricatured in the image of Charles Ramsey and Antoine Dodson.

“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 wrote on Blackbookmag.com. “It’s just baffling that we’re trying to find a way to laugh about what is, in itself, a harrowing turn of events.”

Most of us knew, or at least suspected deep down, that something about Ramsey’s past would surface, causing further embarrassment.

The Smoking Gun website disclosed on May 8 that Ramsey “is a convicted felon whose rap sheet includes three separate domestic violence convictions that resulted in prison terms.”

Blacks instantly asked: Why is something that happened a decade ago—and had nothing to do with Ramsey’s heroism—relevant today? Cleveland’s WEWS-TV, facing a backlash from viewers, apologized for reporting on Ramsey’s criminal past.

“While the story was factually sound, the timing of it and publication of such information was not in good taste, and we regret it,” the station said on its Facebook page.

Normally, I would agree that Ramsey’s criminal past, certainly in this situation, should be irrelevant. But there’s nothing normal about this case. Unfortunately, Ramsey invited the scrutiny when he said he suspected domestic violence because he “was raised to help women in distress.”

In view of that assertion, Ramsey’s domestic violence convictions—hardly a record of helping women in distress—became fair game and should have been reported by the news media. But the reporting should not end there. Ramsey’s ex-wife, since remarried, said Ramsey eventually apologized for battering her and they now interact on “an okay basis.”

In addition, she posted two earlier photos of Ramsey on her Facebook page. She told the Smoking Gun, “For my daughter’s sake I show he didn’t always look hood.”

(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the NNPA. He is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, http://www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)

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