In an alternate universe where Charles Ramsey never gets five minutes of fame because he mentions slavery instead of McDonalds. Charles Ramsey did five years for beating on his wife and read Battle Cry of Freedom, Destruction of Black Civilization, some bell hooks, some Sonia Sanchez, some Fred Douglass, this book list he got from a feminist woman who came in to speak to the fellas about domestic violence and the ramifications of abuse and got serious counseling while confined. When asked on CNN why he helped Amanda he says: My wife don’t love me no more, man. You know what I mean? So I hear a woman crying and yelling for help and I think domestic violence cause I was that fool who beat his wife once and so I think maybe I can make amends by helping somebody, you know. And me and this cat kick the door in. When I look in ole girl face, when her daughter runs to me and the woman says “I’m Amanda, I’m the one from the news, I’ve been locked up in her for ten years.” First thing I think about is slavery, then I think about the gun I keep in the house. I mean check this, I’m thinking about Harriet Jacobs and in The Wake of the Wind and this woman has been a fucking slave for ten years and we don’t even understand slavery now and Amanda was standing there and we both called the cops and. . . . I ate barbecue with this sick bastard. Imagine eating a meal with a slave owner. How you do that and live with yourself? I don’t even sleep no more. Amanda said there are other women in there and . . .
Reginald Dwayne Betts is the author of A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison and a poetry collection, Shahid Reads His Own Palm, winner of the 2010 Beatrice Hawley Award.