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News Anchor Rhonda Lee Fired Over Her Short Natural Hair

The most honest man in America is a man who knows he’s about to lose his job. When you know your days are numbered at a job, you stop caring, you stop pretending because fairly or not you know the next paycheck is your last:

“I’m just a waiter, I’d never actually eat here if I had the money so NO, don’t order the chicken.”

“The truth is, we’ll be dropping prices tomorrow so just buy your clothes then.”

“Yes, Mr. Anderson told me to tell you he’s at lunch but he’s actually sitting in his office looking at porn.”

All of the above and more are statements that prove you’re dealing with someone who is about to lose their job and knows it. So it should come as no surprise that Rhonda Lee, a meteorologist at Louisiana local affiliate KTBS was fired, and it certainly should not come as a surprise that she is speaking out so loudly on the issue.

While many headlines are suggesting that Rhonda Lee, a black female weather reporter in Shreveport Louisiana was fired because of her natural hair choice that is not the real story. According to her initial reports in Journalisms, Lee was minding her own business working as an anchor at the station when on two separate occasions racially tinged insults and critiques were directed at her via social networking sites run by the station. According to Lee :

On Oct. 1, a viewer identified as Emmitt Vascocu wrote, (on the station facebook page)

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 still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq).”

That same day Lee responded:

“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.

Lee’s response to this viewer along with her response to another viewer who claimed the station focused too much on “Black children” in need led to her being fired by the station. The reason? She violated a heretofore “unwritten” policy about social network use by employees at the station. Of course the real issue here isn’t actually Rhonda Lee’s hair, or even her supposed violation of policy, or EVEN the content of her responses. Anyone with common sense can read that her comments to the viewer were polite and well written, and the station had no rule forbidding communication with viewers via social media. The real issue here is what women are protected in the workplace and what women aren’t; which is a race and class issue.

While Rhonda’s incident occurred on October 1st of 2012 in Shreveport Louisiana just a few hundred miles north in La Crossee Wisconsin we had a similar story play out with vastly differing results. Remember Jennifer Livingston? On October 3rd, Livingston an anchorwoman waschastised on WKTB-TV’s Facebook page for being overweight  and setting a bad example for children who are battling obesity. She responded, not only on Facebook but with a 4 minute speech on the network, during prime time, to defend herself her body and anyone else who would dare judge her. Livingston kept her job, received the full support of her station and ended up being a 15 minute celebrity with her video going viral and her appearing on national talk shows.

So let’s add all of this up. Rhonda Lee responds politely to viewers who criticized her hair, her station does nothing to back her up or defend her, in fact she gets fired for it. Jennifer Livingston is criticized for being fat, and her station backs her up completely, gives her 4 minutes of airtime to respond and she’s a hero for “fighting back”. Lee is black. Livingston is white. Attacking a white woman leads to an entire station holding their ground to defend her. A black woman is attacked and the station fires her for defending herself.

Rhonda Lee will no doubt get another job but let’s not confuse what is really going on in this situation. This is simply office racism with hair and non-existent “policy” used to justify a firing. Rhonda knew that network was trying to find a way to fire her, which is why she has been so public with the scandal. They were going to find some excuse to get rid of her, and she has every right to expose them. Too bad she wasn’t overweight, they at least might’ve given her 4 extra minutes on air.

Filed in: News, Politics

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