I hope Rhonda Lee gets her job back. In fact, she never should have lost her job over a short Afro hairstyle in the first place.
Lee, an African American meteorologist, was recently fired from the ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La., because she responded to a racial remark posted by a viewer on the station’s Facebook page, according to Richard Prince, who first reported the story in his diversity column — “Journal-isms” — for The Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
In what appears to be an unfair dismissal, Lee was hastily fired simply for defending her hairstyle after a viewer suggested that she wear a wig or start growing more hair.
A wig? Really?
The viewer’s comments were insulting, ignorant and racially inflammatory—yet Lee got the ax.
That’s just wrong. The station gave the bigoted viewer a pass but tossed their black female meteorologist over the side.
“I had a meeting with my [news director] and GM [general manager] Friday trying to get my job back,” Lee told Prince in her first interview since she was fired. “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.”
“I was instead fired the next week — no discussion had,” Lee explained. “Sirven claims that even if a policy isn’t on paper, we as employees are responsible for abiding by them. There isn’t anything in our employee manual talking about social media dos and don’ts. I was accountable for a rule that essentially isn’t in existence.”
There are many problems with Lee’s situation. Since the station doesn’t have a written policy in place to terminate Lee, it sounds as though Lee may have a legal case to pursue.
The station should also be aware – and acknowledge – racial social media postings by viewers about its employees.
Lee also offered Prince examples of Facebook postings to the station’s website that clearly have racial overtones.
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 it’s 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).”
Here was Lee’s reply:
“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 wrong with that response? It was eloquent, respectful and insightful. Why was Lee fired for appropriately defending her heritage?
Lee should be reinstated to her position in Shreveport immediately and ABC should adopt a policy to manage racial postings by viewers.
Anything less is unacceptable.
“Race has been the issue with me since I started,” Lee told Prince. “That much is very true. Weather is an older white boy business and arms have been less than open for a young black girl — a polar opposite.”
Forecasters are calling for 70-degree temperatures in Shreveport this weekend, but Lee, unfortunately, continues to get the cold shoulder.