African American meteorologist Rhonda Lee lost her job at KTBS 3 News after responding to a racially charged comment about her hair on facebook. The racial comment, posted on KTBS' facebook page went as follows: "the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady. the onlt [sic] 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."
Ms. Lee responded respectfully to the comment with the following statement: "Hello Emmitt—I am the "black lady" to which you are referring. My name is Rhonda Lee. Nice to meet you. I am sorry you don't like my ethnic hair. And no I don't have cancer. 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."
Many African American women have short hair for genetic reasons. Therefore, short, shaven hairstyles are very popular ways for women to wear their natural hair without resorting to wigs, weaves, and relaxers that burn the scalp. Therefore, Lee was fired for defending an ethnic hairstyle that remains part of her African American culture and heritage.
While facebook users praised Lee's efforts to educate the commenter, KTBS responded by firing her for violating procedure, which states that it is "best not to respond at all" to viewer complaints. However, the procedure would not have been violated had the unacceptable comment been removed in the first place. Not only did KTBS fail to remove the comment, they gave a thumbs up endorsement to it; violating their own policy by indirectly responding with a show of support. No one was fired in this show of racist endorsement.
Moreover, KTBS contradicted themselves a second time. Ms. Chrissi Reesby, a white female anchor, responded to racial complaints in a manner that was not outlined by company policy. To date, she has not been fired. The station created a needlessly hostile work environment, by unfairly forcing Ms. Lee into a cornered position where she not only felt the need to defend herself, but for the African American community at large.
For years, natural hairstyles have been admonished as "unprofessional" in the workforce. Lack of acceptance towards them is an ongoing social problem. African Americans, most especially women, have been historically pressured to hide or change their natural hair for more Eurocentric aesthetics.
The irony is that KTBS will be present at an African American History parade in early February, despite their insult to the black community. They are also affiliated with ABC, one of the largest commercial broadcasting television networks in the country. Please stand with us, as we at change.org demand KTBS sponsors to withdraw support for the station until they rehire Ms. Lee, or provide her compensation. This racist misconduct is unprofessional, and should not be tolerated.
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