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.

It’s a shame that when some folks initially heard Ramsey’s story, they dismissed him as a scam artist who was trying to grab the spotlight. But now that we all know the facts, it appears that America could use more folks like Ramsey.

“I’m eating my McDonald’s, I come outside, and I see this girl going nuts, trying to get out of the house,” Ramsey told CNN. “I got on the porch and she said, ‘Help me get out. I’ve been here a long time.” I figured it was a domestic violence dispute. So I open the door. And we can’t get in that way ’cause of how the door is, it’s so much that a body can’t fit through; only your hand.”

Ramsey and another man broke down the door.

“We kicked the bottom,” Ramsey said. “And she comes out with a little girl and she says ‘Call 911. My name is Amanda Berry.” He immediately called 911 — and only then realized that Berry was the woman who had been missing for 10 years.

“I thought this girl was dead,” Ramsey said. “She’s like, ‘This (expletive) kidnapped me and my daughter,'” Ramsey told the 911 operator.

Police have arrested three brothers, Ariel Castro, 52, the owner of the house and a former Cleveland school bus driver; Pedro Castro, 54; and Onil Castro, 50, in connection with the alleged abductions. Police said the women suffered years of horrible abuse, including rape, beatings and being kept in chains.

One former inmate who was serving time in the same jail as the Castro brothers told reporters that prisoners were taunting the Castros for hours. “They were screaming at him all night,” the 20-year-old ex-prisoner told The New York Daily News after his release. “He was just laying there, taking it. They were saying, ‘Don’t feed that rapist! He doesn’t deserve any respect!’”

Ramsey said he had no idea that Ariel Castro was a kidnapper, an abuser of women, and a social deviant.

“I’ve been here a year,” Ramsey said. “You see where I’m coming from? I barbecue with this dude. We eat ribs and whatnot and listen to salsa music.”

Meanwhile, Ramsey said he doesn’t want any of the potential reward money. He said the money should be given to the three women who have lost so many years of their lives.

“I tell you what you do, give it to them,” Ramsey said. “You know I got a job anyway.”

Spoken like a true American hero.

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