Amid the horrific news of three rape victims trapped for a decade in an Ohio home, the neighbour who rescued them has given the world a dose of comic relief.
"Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man's arms. … dead giveaway," said the neighbour, Charles Ramsey, explaining the events that led to the release of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, in an ABC News video posted Monday.
Overnight, Ramsey became the quipster hero of legions of Internet fans.
But as Connor Simpson noted at the Atlantic Wire, Ramsey's heroism is being overshadowed by his entertainment value.
Moreover, although Ramsey seems to enjoy the spotlight, the public delight in his "colourful" style adds to the stereotype of "hilarious" black neighbours who are inevitably poor and working class, wrote Aisha Harris at Slate.com.
Among the snippets that have online viewers cracking up is the part where Ramsey tells a reporter about his neighbourly get-togethers with Ariel Castro, the alleged ringleader of three brothers arrested in connection with the crimes against the three women who were kidnapped in their teens or early 20s.
"I barbecue with this dude – we eat ribs and whatnot and listen to salsa music," Ramsey said in an incredulous tone.
Internet users are poking fun at which McDonald's food Ramsey may have been eating when he first heard Berry's cries for help. "I bet it wasn't McRibs," one gag goes. A Fark.com reader going by the handle Taylor Mental claims the jokes are "so funny on so many levels … I totally forgot he rescued a white girl from sex slavery."
Although the comment is offensive, to say the least, the writer's desire for a distraction from the disturbing events is widely shared. Another Fark reader suggested starting an Internet-based Charles Ramsey Appreciation Fund to thank him "for cheering us up during these dark times."
But according to Amy Davidson, blogging at the New Yorker, the world owes a lot more to Ramsey than a few laughs at his inner-city lingo. When Ramsey heard Berry's screams, "I figured it was a domestic-violence dispute," he said. But instead of using that as an excuse to walk away, Ramsey took a chance and helped kick down the door.
Laughter may be a good antidote to the constricted blood flow caused by mental stress, according to University of Maryland research. But let's not lose sight of the victims' trauma – and the strength of Ramsey's Samaritan instincts – among the yuck-yucks.