An Open Letter to Charles Ramsey


An open letter to Charles Ramsey

By: Eris Zion Venia Dyson

May 7th 2013

Dear Mr. Charles Ramsey,
First and foremost thank you. Thank you for being an up-stander versus a bystander. All too often we are quick to flee from the things that could land us in imminent danger, but you in your hearts of hearts knew that the right thing to do was to come to the aid of someone who was crying out. We as the members of this great City of Cleveland are forever beholden to you for finding three of our daughters who we thought we’d never see again. But through the grace of the Most High… they are now safe.

In plain speak, you said something so prolific. And I want to unpack the statement that you made:  “When a little, pretty white woman runs into the arms of a Black man you know something wrong.”

What does this statement mean in 2013? For me, it spoke volumes. It says: In America, we are taught to fear Black Men. They are assumed to be violent, angry, and  completely & utterly untrustworthy. This statement also says what we have always known to be true for this country: White women, specifically pretty white women have no business in the same space as Black men. For as long as we can remember American society has been the sustainer of white women and the slayer of Black men.

We have seen it with the all too familiar story of Emmitt Till. We have seen it with the less familiar story of George Stinney; the youngest person in the United States ever executed. At 14 years old he was charged with the murder of two white girls in Alcolu, South Carolina. He was charged with this murder after being the last to see these two girls alive and even helped to search for them. With no evidence and no concrete witnesses he was sent to the electric chair, with a booster seat for his 90lb body, his case never reopened even after the culprit admitted he committed the crime.

I write this letter with extreme gratefulness, because I know how this country has historically made a mockery of, and torn down men like you: Black men who have been the fall guy, Black men who are assumed guilty for wearing hoodies and having wallets that somehow get mistaken for guns. So we all know that you could have easily said that you would not put yourself in harm’s way.

And for your act of heroism you are met with extreme scrutiny dredged in jest. Joke after joke for telling your truth, as plain as you knew how. You, Mr. Ramsey, were made fun of for flinching when the sounds of police sirens struck an innate reaction of terror in you. We all know that the police weren’t made for the protection of Black men.  The 911 operator who engaged you with disdain, disbelief, and sheer aggravation reaffirmed that “you don’t have to be white to support white supremacy” …so if you don’t “look” like a hero, “speak” like a hero, “dress” like a hero, wear your “hair” like a hero… then you’re just another person used to build the comedic chops of aspiring youtube/twitter/facebook/instagram sensations.

Thank you Mr. Ramsey for your discernment. Words can’t express what you have done for the families that finally have answers. As for the court jesters… there’s not much we can do for the cowards who don’t see that you did what the Cleveland Police department and the FBI could NOT do for an entire decade. As James Baldwin said… “When a man asks himself what is meant by action he proves that he isn’t a man of action. Action is a lack of balance. In order to act you must be somewhat insane. A reasonably sensible man is satisfied with thinking.”

Thank you for being “somewhat insane” enough to act.

With Love,



43 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Charles Ramsey

  1. Wow! Beautiful sentiment!

    I will save this so that when my almost 5 year old Black son is 17, we can hopefully shake our heads in sadness for the way things used to be. Or to reinforce that not a lot has changed unfortunately.

    Thanks for being brave enough to put this out there.


    Hausa Mann

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Thank you! As a victim of kidnapping on Cleveland’s west side, I would like to thank you for making her business your business. May God continue to bless you.

  3. I didn’t know what to expect when I read this, but I’m glad I did read it all the way through. This line especially hit the nail on the head: ” then you’re just another person used to build the comedic chops of aspiring youtube/twitter/facebook/instagram sensations.” Well said.

  4. Great sentiment. Something is lost when our culture prefers to tease those who do the right thing just because they look a certain way. Less and less people will do the right thing for fear of being the next butt of internet jokes.

  5. Beautiful post. One point does not ring true for me:
    “For as long as we can remember American society has been the sustainer of white women and the slayer of Black men.”
    Not so fast.
    Who was given the right to vote first, black men or white women?
    Who was granted memberships in many exclusive all-white male clubs and institutions first, black men or white women?
    Who got a seat on the US Supreme Court first, a black man or a white woman?
    Who became President of the United States first, a black man or a white woman?
    Down through US history black men have often won rights and position in society ahead of white women – because they are MEN.
    Being a white woman may have some advantages. But the advantages are far outnumbered by this reality: women are discriminated against, stereotyped and oppressed too. ALL women.
    And although you would pit me against black men because I am white, as a mere female I too, know what it is to be treated as less than a white man. And therefore I often feel a greater alliance with black men than white men. I am not necessarily ‘sustained’ by American society. (Or any other society around the world.) I have been slayed too.
    Can you understand this?

    1. Michelle although I understand your motivation. There is still a pervasive undercurrent of pure unadulterated hate and fear of the black man in America proof of it is not in the election of the president, but in the raw seething hatred by those “patriots” who refuse under any circumstances to cooperate with him or any of his agenda (even if it is what they have believed and fought for all their lives) Even though white women were treated as less than white men they were not systematically
      beaten for glancing at anyone
      hung because they were suspected of speaking to anyone
      followed by the police just because
      stopped by the police just because
      harassed by the police just because
      abused by the police just because
      arrested by the police just because
      killed by the police just because
      forced to confess to crimes they did not and in a LOT of cases physically could not have committed
      never heard of a white woman given 30 years for the same fight that got white men a suspended sentence
      never heard of white women being called savages etc… and depicted in every media outlet as ignorant and violent and dangerous
      never heard of white women being in the “wrong neighborhood”
      never heard of white women being set on fire because she spoke
      never heard of white women being beaten to death because they looked suspicious
      never heard of white women being shot because they looked menacing
      never heard of white women being followed in stores because they “fit the profile”
      never heard of white women being systematically ingrained with the belief that they are worthless (not worth less)
      never heard of white women’s kids being killed so white women would be forced to move out of any neighborhood
      never heard of a whole town of white women being murdered because of a lie from a fake victim
      never heard of an entire neighborhood of white women being held hostage by the very people who swore to protect and serve them because they “fit the description”
      never heard of a white woman’s nationwide story of fear just to walk down a street that they live on (instilled by the police)
      never heard of a dictionary giving synonyms for white women as dirty, dingy, sad, depressing, somber, doleful, mournful, funereal, disastrous, calamitous, sinful, INHUMAN, FIENDISH, DEVILISH, infernal, MONSTROUS; atrocious, horrible; NEFARIOUS, treacherous, traitorous, VILLAINOUS. simply because of their skin tone
      im sorry I forgot the word that everyone uses to demean, subjugate and insult white women again what was it??????

      1. I was going to respond but I agree with Jonathon. Women, white women included, are specially oppressed in a patriarchal capitalist society but there is no doubt in my mind that the black male has been, and still is, the most denigrated individual in US society.

  6. Very well put..but I must defend myself.I am very happy he had more courage than a lot would have had.I have made duah(small or quick prayer)for the almighty have mercy on him abd reward him now or later. But I did fb the interview and it was/is funny. The truths he speak are true/funny, and the way he delivered his speach was a lil funny, and his preception of danger was also a lil funny.but all true. I know you weren’t speaking directly to me but. After I read your blog, you were very correct and true. I feel it. Kinda made me feel a lil guilty I guess.but this letter put things back in prospective.GS.

  7. Very well written and thought out. Sentiments were captured well. Glad to know that someone felt enough pride to write this type of response. Glad to know you. Great job Lil Sis.

  8. Thank you so much for writing such an important and beautiful letter. I found your letter reposted in The Guardian. I have passed it on to people I know, and I will be discussing your post in my ethics class later this term. Keep up the great work!

  9. I must be missing something, but as far as I can tell the general reaction to Ramsey has been a mix of admiration for his actions, and delight at his candor and honesty. Maybe I’m just not an avid enough consumer of the news to know what else is going on. When people laugh at his statement about the little white girl for example, they are not, and I am not, laughing AT him. The laughter is like laughter a Seinfeld episode — people are laughing at the truth of what he says (the very best comedy highlights a truth we really want to ignore). The incident exposes the failures in our society, and his statements do, and I think it is a good thing to laugh at our failures even as we try to correct them. He is a hero and a legendarily AWESOME American character. I’m laughing my butt off…, and re-examining myself for prejudices, and suspecting that many, many other people are as well.

  10. Thank you for your great words and your great work, Dear Lady! Charles Ramsey is awesome and that’s just the first layer of truth in that story. I made a point of using his fine example of what living fearlessly actually looks like when the question was asked, “Who teaches bravery”.
    Truth may travel the lonely miles endless, but in reunion with its good company is _tireless_.

  11. Thank you Ms. Dyson for a very thoughtful and well written piece and Mr. Jonathon – you just made the tiny fist in my heart smile…thank you both for your advocacy!

  12. Aah a lovely statement. Thank you 🙂

    Have to say though, he made me laugh yes, but in a good way! There is nothing wrong with laughing “with” someone, and if I were standing by his side during that interview that is exactly what I would have done, laughed with him. He is a brave man, but he has an amazing sense of humour too! Let the World celebrate his character in any way they wish. I have not so far seen anything derogatory, and I believe we should be careful not to (yet again) attach racism when others are simply celebrating the beauty of another human being. Well done Mr Ramsey, you deserve the whole World’s respect!

  13. well done Charles Ramsey – couldn’t agree more with all the thoughts expressed in your open letter – just makes what Mr Ramsey did even more heroic X

  14. Thank you so much for this beautiful post. I had unsettling conversations yesterday with co-workers about Charles Ramsey’s statements and I couldn’t articulate to them just how upsetting their comments were on his statements. I didn’t know how to respond to them without getting angry. You elegantly put forth the history of why statements like his mean so much- and in that context, the unpacking you did, I was able to send your post to my co-workers and say, “Please read this, it elegantly expresses just how important Charles Ramsey’s statements were.” Thank you for being a voice of truth.

  15. Great letter and so true. They now want to make a carnival show out of it all, out of a profound statement said with no malice and in complete honesty. The newsman was uncomfortable, tried to end the interview. We are not supposed to talk about this. Had Mr. Ramsey attacked white workers this would have been fine as it would tend to increase division between us. Mr. Ramsey though attacked the system itself, the institutionalized racism that is built in to the capitalist system. He was a breath of fresh air, a change from the staged, moribund US TV news. Now they have to depoliticize it. Here’s what I put on our blog when I heard it:

  16. Amen! Thank you for this eloquent reminder of what actually happened that day.

    You have to wonder how many of these haters judging Charles Ramsay would have ignored Amanda Berry’s cries for help, and then joked afterward about the “hysterical” little “white trash” girl “going ballistic.”

  17. MR Ramsey’s courage should certainly be praised to the high heavens. It stands in such stark contrast to the experience of poor Natascha Kampusch, the first of the young women to have escaped a long term kidnapper this century. Last night I listened to a replay of an old interview with her. She escaped after her tormentor Walter Priklopil finally failed to lock the gate in his garden wall. She ran into the streets, and approached one neighbor after another, half a dozen times at least, before she found someone willing to even call the police for her. And Austria is a far less ‘dangerous’ country than anywhere in the US. What did they fear in a desperate 18yr old girl who had been imprisoned for 10 years of her life?!

  18. I too would like to thank you for posting your letter. I was becoming quite upset with the posts from shallow minds that just had to find fault with Charles Ramsey, a true hero. Thank you too for your act of kindness and stepping forward to remind others what it takes to be a caring individual.

  19. But is it not true that Mr Ramsey was, if anything, little more than a bystander that day? That the real help was done by the man visiting across the street, Angel Cordero? This is important when we listen to Ramsey’s account. Others on the scene have even called Mr Ramsey a liar. See reports on CNN and more for details.

  20. Thank you Mr. Ramsey for having the courage to make a difference. You helping those women in their desperate time of need, made a tremendous difference in their lives. Those three women will always remember the Hero that saved their lives. If it was not for you, they might not have got out of their alive at all. No one knows how much longer that horrible torture of those young women might have gone on. Your bravery that you have shown should be celebrated and acknowledged with other real American Heroes who choose to help others in a split second not thinking of their own personal danger. I am sorry that there are still some primitive people who have to attack a person’s background to make them look important. You can be proud that you are better than they are. God Bless You!

  21. But I suppose some statements ring too true, too quotable, and too powerful that it jolts the system.

    The fact is that the hero in this case is also society’s view of an antihero so this is all very Greek fable.

    Succinctly and beautifully written post!

  22. Beautiful letter! Hopefully Mr. Ramsey reads it and feels the sentiment as many others and i do. Thank you for writing it and ABSOLUTELY many thanks to Mr. Ramsey for being the wonderful man he obviously is! i would love to be able to thank the man myself for ALL young woman! He is truly a hero and deserves everything good in his life! He is an inspiration to ALL men INHO and should be highly praised and blessed….

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