Social media can land employees in a heap of trouble, and meteorologist Rhonda A. Lee found that truth out firsthand. Ms. Lee lost her job at KTBS-TV, an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La. when she responded to a Facebook post criticizing her short afro.
The post read as follows via Journal-isms:
On Oct. 1, a viewer identified as Emmitt Vascocu wrote, “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).”
Lee replied the same day, “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.”
Vascocu replied that Lee was right to be proud of who she is and that he is not a racist, but “. . . this world has . . . certain standerd (cq). if youve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?. . .”
Though Lee’s response seems professional and mature given the nature of Vascocu’s criticism, she was reprimanded by her employer and subsequently fired. It’s even more puzzling that KTBS-TV could not reference a documented rule that Ms. Lee was in violation of: “I had a meeting with my ND [news director] and GM [general manager] Friday trying to get my job back,” Lee said. “They told me the policy I violated isn’t written down, but was mentioned in a newsroom meeting about a month-and-a-half prior. A meeting I didn’t attend. So when I asked what rule did I break there isn’t anything to point to.”
Lee cites racism as the impetus behind her firing, and says she’s experienced it regularly since becoming a meteorologist as “weather is [a] white boy business.” Be that as it may, she shouldn’t have to fight off racist attacks from viewers, and certainly not from her employer.