Black meteorologists Rhonda Lee was fired from her job at Louisiana-based KTBS after defending her short hair style on Facebook.
The news media is a tough industry to break into. It can be especially difficult for a young black woman trying to make it on her reporting skills and talent while constantly being judged based on appearance and other superficial traits. Nowhere did this manifest itself in such an ugly manner as when Rhonda Lee, an African American weather reporter was fired from her job after defending her choice of hair style.
Rhonda Lee had been a weather reporter for Shreveport, Louisiana-based KTBS where she provided on-air coverage of the weather. In late October the station received a note on their Facebook page from a reader who took exception to her appearance:
“the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady. the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but its still not something myself that i think looks good on tv.”
Certainly most women would consider this a rather offensive comment, but instead of posting an insulting rebuttal Lee posted a seemingly tasteful, respectful and well thought out response:
"Hello Emmitt–I am the ‘black lady’ to which you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. I’m a non-smoking, 5’3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition.
I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.
Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.
Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching."
What was the reward for Miss Lee handling this incident in such a responsible manner? She was fired from the station, which cited her "repeated breach of corporate policy" for dealing with harsh viewer comments. For the record, Lee has stated that she has never seen this so-called policy.
Anyone can see that Rhonda Lee is an articulate, healthy woman
This incident is starting to garner a lot of attention in both local and national media outlets as it brings to light several issues that have historically been swept under the rug.
1. Women are unfairly judged based on appearance for employment where appearance should have no relevance. A Meteorologist is not a model. They are a trained scientist hired to report the weather. Her appearance should have no bearing on her job as long as she looks professional and well groomed
2. Black Women are too often unfairly judged against some fictitious standard of beauty. To say that a black woman with short hair looks like a "cancer patient" is about as insulting as one could get however too many white AND black people subscribe to this notion. Short, NATURAL African American hair is beautiful and more importantly it is God's intention. Black women are born with natural hair, not relaxed, weaved up, chemically processed hair. To assert that a black woman's natural state is somehow not attractive is false and extremely damaging to the psyche. Black Women are beautiful natural, braided or otherwise and they should all be acknowledged as such.
3. Arbitrary firings by corporations occur too frequently. If this had not blown up into a national incident Rhonda Lee would just be another black woman dismissed from her job by the all-powerful corporation. Workers need protection against employers, but in this time of imbalance politicians and corporations continue to fight to take away employer rights and the rights of unions to bargain and support their workers.
Rhonda Lee and all black women deserve better. Workers of all race, background deserve better. No one should be fired, laid off or punished for doing their job with professionalism and dignity. We hope that the Rhonda Lee story continues to get publicity to put pressure on not only KTBS but all employers who think they can dismiss and mistreat workers.
Good luck Rhonda,
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