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Topic: race

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May 8, 2013 at 6:30 AM

Charles Ramsey, Ohio hero, unwittingly nails America’s fear of a black man

America is captivated by Charles Ramsey’s colorful story about his rescue of Amanda Berry from a Cleveland house where she and two other women had been held prisoner for a decade.  Overnight, Ramsey has become “one of those instantly compelling figures who, in the middle of an American tragedy, just start talking—and then we can’t stop listening,” as a writer wrote in The New Yorker.

Ramsey’s unwitting but spot-on commentary about race in America has been the most compelling part.  Asked by a reporter how he knew Amanda Berry was in trouble, Ramsey replied:

I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway … Either she’s homeless or she’s got problems. That’s the only reason she run to a black man …


Ramsey’s explanation is rooted in Americans stereotypes of black men as lazy, criminal and someone to fear.  Think of the taxi drivers who avoid picking up black men at night for fear they’ll be robbed, as noted in this ABC News story. Black men are too often “the wrong color and the right suspects,” as the New York Times put it in a review of a documentary about five black teenagers falsely accused and convicted of raping a Central Park jogger.  The Washington Post has called for attention to the “vast, increasing segregation of young, African American men and boys from the promise of their country.”

With all of the pathologies heaped upon black men, it is no wonder Ramsey was shocked to find a white woman running toward him rather than away from him. Is Ramsey the one to make America realize how painful, and more importantly, inaccurate, its stereotypes of black men are?


Comments | Topics: black men, Charles Ramsey, Cleveland

April 18, 2013 at 6:31 AM

Media’s description of search for ‘dark skinned’ Boston Marathon suspect shows ineptitude around race

The scene following an explosion at the 2013 Boston Marathon. (Photo by Ben Thorndike / AP)

The scene following an explosion at the 2013 Boston Marathon. (Photo by Ben Thorndike / AP)

CNN has egg on its face after the network and other media outlets falsely reported in multiple stories a suspect had been arrested in the Boston Marathon explosions, summed up in a Tampa Bay Times story.  In a competitive media environment, reporters naturally want to get the news first, but first they should get it right.

There are lessons to learn in CNN’s other big faux pas of the day: Reporter John King said law enforcement officers were looking for a suspect, “a dark-skinned individual.” The description ended there, making it about as useful as saying police were looking for a person with two eyes and a nose, wrote the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple on his blog.

King may have been concerned about the flimsy description. Reporting on-air for CNN, he said: “I want to be very careful about this because people get very sensitive when you say these things. I was told by one of these sources, who is a law enforcement official, that this was a dark-skinned male. The official used some other words, I’m not going to repeat them until we get more information because of the sensitivities. There are some people that will take offense even at that. “

The only offense I took was professionally.


Comments | Topics: boston marathon, cnn, media

March 8, 2013 at 6:30 AM

In a word: How does Seattle Public Schools treat minority schoolchildren?

A federal investigation into why the Seattle Public Schools discplines African American students more often, and more harshly should spur more, rather than less, debate about race. Compelling charts here should inspire cogent response, not finger-pointing or racist accusations. And why are district officials suffering heart burn over the  “Citizenship and Social Justice” class at the Center School? After a…


Comments | More in Interactives | Topics: children, discrimination, Education

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