Thursday, May 9, 2013

Why It's Okay to Laugh at Charles Ramsey (hint: He's trying to be funny)

The recent story out of Cleveland is pretty unbelievable. But the real story is that we have a new Internet celebrity in Charles Ramsey, the man who called 911 once Amanda Berry escaped captivity. Ramsey gave a very candid and very hilarious interview to a local news station. But the REAL real story is the backlash that people's love for Charles Ramsey has set off.

Now, we're no strangers to issues of race here on this blog. I would say that we've tackled some issues of race and taken stands that many, if not most, people would think are overly sensitive, especially surrounding the Williams sisters. But this Charles Ramsey backlash is ridiculous.

It's true that Charles Ramsey is black, and that he doesn't speak the King's English. But that's not the reason why people are laughing at what he says. Here's an excerpt from his famous interview:

I figured, I mean, whoever she was, like I say, my neighbor, you got some big testicles to pull this off dude, cos we see this guy every day I mean EVERY DAY.

This man just said "testicles" on TV. I don't care who says that, that's funny. Can you imagine someone saying "testicles" in a news interview that wasn't about testicles? Charles Ramsey is not speaking sincerely here. He's speaking humorously. For those who might not get the joke, saying that someone has "big balls" is a somewhat humorous way of saying that person is bold. To say someone has big "testicles" is a way to get right at the heart of the joke very directly, which many would construe as humorous. Also, saying the word "testicles" in television is comedically unexpected and inappropriate.

Here's another quote:

I eat barbecue with this dude. We eat ribs and whatnot, and listen to salsa music, you see where I'm coming from?

This is a very personal and candid thing to say in an interview, much more personal and candid than what one would normally hear from a local news interview. One might consider this candidness funny.

Bro, not a clue that that girl was in that house, or anybody was in there against their will, because how he is, is he just comes out to his backyard, he plays with the dogs, tinkers with his cars and motorcycles, goes back in the house. So he's somebody that you look and you look away because he's not doin' nothin' but the average stuff, you see what I'm saying? Ain't nothin' exciting about him. Well, until today. Ha ha ha.

1. He calls the news reporter "bro." This is unusual and thereby could be considered humorous. It's funny in the same way that Gregg Popvich's sideline interviews are funny. They're just unexpected in a very ironic and self-aware way. THERE'S YOUR GD CONNECTION TO SPORTS.

2. The last two sentences of this paragraph are classically comedic (just trust me), and then the last part, where it says "Ha ha ha," for those of you who are unfamiliar, denotes laughter. Charles Ramsey is laughing at something he said. He perhaps meant it to, I don't know, induce laughter. Laughter generally follows something that is humorous.

Well, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms. Something is wroooong here. Dead giveaway. Dead giveaway. Deeeaaad giveaway. Either she homeless, or she got problems, that's the only why she's runnin' to a black man.

If you don't think Charles Ramsey is speaking ironically here, then I'm just out of ideas.

Charles Ramsey spoke in an intentionally humorous way in this interview because he's speaking ironically. For those of you who are offended by people laughing at this, I (and Jon, to whom I've spoken about this) have a message for you: BLACK PEOPLE ARE CAPABLE OF IRONY AND SELF-AWARENESS. Charles Ramsey is employing these capabilities in this interview to humorous effect.

The Charles Ramsey interview has brought back memories of Antoine Dodson, who helped prevent his sister from being sexually assaulted in 2010 and gave a famous news interview. Antoine Dodson's interview is HILARIOUS.

Antoine Dodson was much more flamboyant and and candid than we are normally accustomed to in a news interview. Also, he's pretty objectively a weird-looking person. Here's a quote from Dodson's interview:

Well, obviously, we have a rapist in Lincoln Park. He's climbing in your windows, he's snatching your people up, trying to rape 'em, so y'all need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husbands 'cause they raping everybody out here.

HIDE YOUR HUSBANDS BECAUSE THEY'RE RAPING EVERYBODY! HOW IS THAT NOT SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY?! Yeah, no, this is just how Antoine Dodson truly feels. He truly feels that everybody needs to stow their husbands in locked closets for fear of being raped. And we, as Americans, must value Antoine Dodson's opinion as a sincere individual.

You left fingerprints and all. You are so dumb. You are really dumb. For real.

Normally, in news interviews, the person being interviewed speaks to the interviewer, not to some person who is not even present. No, but I think Antoine Dodson actually thinks the camera is the rapist! He's not being ironic or anything!

You don't have to come and confess that you did it. We looking for you. We gonna find you, I'ma let you know now. So you can run and tell that, homeboy.

How is laughing at someone saying "you can run and tell that, homeboy" laughing at "black people" in general? The guy said something funny. That is just plain funny. That's not how "BLACK PEOPLE" talk.

So there are two lessons to take away from these episodes. The first is: we're not laughing at Charles Ramsey and Antoine Dodson. We're laughing with them. And the second is: when someone says something that's funny, it's okay to laugh, no matter his or her race.

Now, clearly, there are some people who laugh at black people just because they're black. Those people are racist. People who react to the Charles Ramsey interview by saying BLACK PEOPLE LOVE RIBS AND SALSA MUSIC AND MCDONALDS ISN'T THAT HILARIOUS are totally racist. This guy talking about ribs and salsa music and McDonald's is not, in itself, funny. The context is funny as hell, but the substance isn't funny unless you're pretty racist.

But that's not who we're talking about here. We're talking about people like me who find these things funny. It's okay to find them funny because they are funny, and they're intended to be funny.

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