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8:04pm December 12, 2012

Was News Anchor Rhonda Lee Fired Over Her Short Natural Hair? Not Likely

rhonda2

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.



About the Author

Jason Johnson
Jason Johnson





 
 

 
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40 Comments


  1. [...] article originally appeared online at Politic365.com. Share this:FacebookTwitterEmailPrintLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. from → Jason [...]


  2. [...] Was News Anchor Rhonda Lee Fired Over Her Short Natural Hair? Likely Not [...]


  3. Ronda, you are a beautiful black Woman, what a shame you lost your job because of your friendly response, for me you are a real role model.


  4. t is a shame that some people believe that black women can only fit it if they have long flowing hair. There is still a problem in this country with Black women wearing their natual hair. Black women should not be a shame of their hair EVER! I wear my hair kinky in the summer and straighten in the winter. It is okay to wear natural hair styles and it is okay to transition to perm, straighten or weaved hair. My problem is when you feel you cannot be beautiful without the weave or straigthen hair. God created us all wonderfully beautiful!


  5. She is a beautiful black woman they just don’t like smart black people I quit a job in Dallas after 13 years I was call boy hey get your black ass over the n word from illegal worker and this your right to laws the co. name legacy trading Dallas txthis is nothing new just stop watching what’s not right


  6. It’s almost 2013, and we are still dealing with these types of issues. However, I do believe that bigger and better doors are about to open up for her. Stay strong my sista!


  7. The man (who I assume is probably black) didn’t say anything about her hair texture just that it is short, and I guess he has issues with women with short hair. The reason I think he is black is because it seems that black people tend to want to express how they feel about another black person hair choices, as though it effects them personally.
    What I got from his letter was that he didn’t like her short hair, but she went off on it being about her natural hair which I don’t think it was about…in some since, there is still the issue that a woman has to have long or longer hair to give the news. which makes no sense. Kind of like the other news woman who was told she was too fat.. Same thing different name..
    I think she’s had to defend her choice to wear her hair the way she wants and was frustrated by it.. that’s why she jump to the conclusion that’s it was about natural as oppose to short.,
    She should have never felt the need to defend herself or her hair.


    • There is nothing in the viewers comments that would lead any intelligent person to assume he was black. That is your first mistake, and one that would only be made by a white person trying to deflect the obvious racism being displayed in the comments. Then you add insult to injury in suggesting that she should have kept quite. I as a black man love to see balck women wear natural hair. It is beautiful and needs no explanation to some back woods, aligator eating wite racist bastard.


  8. What a bunch of crap. If this clown is so concerned about a wig tell him to put one on and wear it?


  9. So no one is going to talk about the email she received discussing the policy or the white guy who was fired for the same thing?


    • Lamont…please tell me more about the email…missed that one. Was the email sent before or after she posted the comment on FB? That makes a difference. As for the white guy, love to know what exactly he was fired for as well. The firing of Lee is a solid example of racism and sexism at the institutional/organizational level. She’s a Black woman who didn’t conform: problem. She’s a woman working in the world of TV where your (or more specifically, where women who are often far more scrutinized regarding their physical appearance than men) physical appearance matters who was courageous enough to buck the system: problem. Her hair is both a political statement (one that makes a lot of folks (including the man who complained about it) very uncomfortable and her right to choose.


    • Thanks Rob, I’d heard in one of these reports that Rhonda had been warned previously, and it appears that she was. I’m sorry that she was fired, but we all should know by now what we can and cannot say on Social Media sites. When I come to work I leave my personal life behind, and when I leave work, I leave work in my office where it belongs. As a person in the media, Rhonda should know that there will be people who may try to have a negative impact on her, and/or say negative things about her. To those people, I say, “So, what?” I couldn’t care less if someone didn’t like my hair. People are always asking me if I have a weave, or if I relax my hair. When I tell them “No”, they just look at me as if to say, “You know you’re lying.” I’ve even had people pull on my hair to see if it’s real; then they’re surprised to see that it is. I get compliments, but only half-hearted ones. I don’t care; I’m secure with who I am, and Rhonda should be too. Her natural hair is very becoming, and she’s beautiful. Black women have hair in many kinds of textures, as do other women, and we should all be happy with what we have.


    • The response given for her firing was that she had SEVERAL warnings. To my knowledge this was the only response that everyone adnits was very polite and non threatening or argumentative so was it really necessary to fire her? and by the way this was not the first racist comments about this lady that they received so in my opinion she shold sue the hell out of these racist bastards!!!


  10. The posting below is from my wife who is using my Facebook account, since she does not have one and has no desire to create an account.


  11. Dear Rhonda, as a black woman who wears her hair natural, I am so proud of you. You handled the situation with such dignity, class and grace. I am in a profession where I am often stared at and looked at like I am some sort of alien being. I can honestly tell you, I believe a lot of doors have been slammed in my face for the simple fact that I am black, a women, and I talk with a “New York” long island type accent ( oh yes, and my hair). Your response back to that ignorant man, Mr Emmitt Vascocu ( I do not believe he is black for one minute, Terri Ann Roberts get real!) was so professional and classy. I for one will NEVER give up my natural style just to appease people who may not like it. The comments you have received from positive black men makes me so happy. I know you will go on to bigger and better things in your life. I also know the station you were working for does not deserve to have you and, whoever your boss is and your former co-workers ( the spineless gang) their actions or lack there of just prove that they have no hearts for anyone that are different than themselves. I truly feel your pain and I know that God has something bigger and better waiting for you… You wait and see!

    Carry On Sister Girl,

    A. Lynne Hoff-Lee


  12. It is truly a sad day in America when we are still talking about this issue! In the 70′s we were told by our college professors at Grambling to “STRAIGHTEN OUR HAIR” before we went on interviews! Now ALMOST 40 YEARS LATER, we are still talking an age old problem!


  13. its a shame..i met her a cople of yrs ago…class act.


  14. I can not word it any better than A. Lynn Hoff Lee. I too wear my hair natural and have for years. I applaud those not wanting to conform to what society uses a measurement for beauty. Love The Skin You’re In… Embrace what God has Blessed You With!


  15. Ms. Lee is a professional woman. Her work involves viewers, a more or less informed group. Her behavior, stepping out of her professional role and addressing a lone viewer’s opinion was way over the top (all that personal information about her health?). She comes across as hypersensitive and extraordinarily defensive. By now she should have have learned (this is not her first work place) that her behavior was crude and patronizing toward a viewer who expressed her humble opinion. Negative or questionable viewer responses are part of her business. Moreover, she had been informed previously that certain behaviors are unacceptable She needs to learn to stay calm and ignore uninformed comments. In the end she probably not only antagonized the viewer but her employer as well.


  16. We’ve got to stop trying to give rational responses to irrational racist questions and comments. Racists people are sick. Her response however eloquent cost Ms. Lee her job. Stop trying to defend or explain ourselves and cultural preferences as Americans of African descent. It will never be accepted, validated, or understood!


  17. I’m so upset! Go Rhonda for standing up for your self!


  18. Hello, My name is Richard Martz and I am a 60 year old white male from the greater Detroit area and today I read the article about Rhonda Lee. Living in the Detroit area we have a large spectrum of races and religions and I have many, many friends that are black as well as other races. The first friend I made when I moved over here from Kalamazoo, Michigan is a black man and he is still to this day my oldest friend. When I read a story like this, it saddens my heart. I cannot believe that in today’s culture we as human beings cannot ACT like humans. Why should a “Lady” or any other person, need to be judged for her looks, or race rather than how she performs her job and how she handled herself in response to a an obviously biased comment on a social media site. Her response to the man in question was very articulate and proper one. It is truly a shame that employers feel that they have the right to control people as to what they can say on a social media site. After all, would they have done the same thing if she would have answered him from her own personal Facebook page? I think if anyone should have been fired for “Anything”, it should have been the station manager for NOT defending her or taking the opportunity to contacting the man in question and personally standing up her and make the whole situation a more positive one. Rhonda, WE would love to have you up here in the COLD part of the country. Even way up here, we stand behind you, not as Black, White, Hispanic or any other ethnicity. We stand behind you as human beings and will do anything that we can to help you defend yourself against THAT kind of bigotry. As my grand-daughters would say, “You Go Girl!”


  19. To suggest she was a Cancer Pairnt..how rude


  20. Let’s be honest here. The reason why this occurs is because all persons of African Heritage do not have the same perception in regards to both human rights and diversity in the work place. In 2012 Monica Pearson, the first African American Female News Anchor in Atlanta, GA, retired and referenced the same issue stating “you won’t see this anymore” as she was pointing to her short straight hair. Two university students at Argosy University published an article “Examination of Ethnic and Policy Issues in Grooming Preferences and Ethnic Hairstyles of African American Women in Corporate America.” The basis of the article references several points of White America imposing ethnic sanctions on professional minorities in efforts to shape their personalities and void them of cultural acceptance.

    I have read several comments below and the problem has existed long before the seventies—White People have been discriminatory savages since the founding of this country: murdering the Native Americans, establishing property rights on stolen land, engaged in human trafficking, and enslaved and killed thousands of generations of minorities over the past 500 years that continues in the 3rd millennium. The reason why they get away with racism is because we allow them and justify their abuse with ‘prayer’. God says that faith without works is dead [James 2:17] and now is the time that we seek vengeance and demand our respect in corporations and within our communities.

    Black people need to develop more entrepreneurship in local communities, get higher education, and support other black families. Today we have a new philosophy in that we must try to enlighten the loads of the descendants of our ancestors’ “ship-mate[s]”. The African World has vast opportunity that we can take advantage of to build a productive international nation for ourselves. We can start by funding our HBCU’s, developing a more democratic process in the NAACP [that’s void of celebrities], and funding community centers and setting up investment companies that pools money from black families to create businesses, jobs, and residual investment income.

    We also need better communication for the things that we need and to stop depending on the government to care for our lifestyles. Those checks are indications of failure and not reparations. As living humans of African Slaves we individually are the reparation in that our ancestors worked, procreated, and died [often brutally] fighting for us to have the right to freedoms many of them never experienced. Honestly, in the black communities it’s unappreciated and their deaths were in vain. Better communications begins with sending your new born babies to nurseries of African Heritage where the primary language is “French”. All black people NEED to be bilingual and speak French because that is the universal language of African People. We need to develop our own school system—one international school for black people that is taught exclusively in French and has the same standards in every country. We also need to visit, develop, and provide assistance to unify the African Governments [like the Eurozone], develop our own currency, and we should spend and trade in our own money.

    This comment is less than 1,000 words but if these basic things were to take place all would see that Black People do have a great pride of race.

    My name is Jean-Pierre Duqueroix-Duvalier [no relation].
    Jean-pierre.duqueroix-duvalier@gmail.com
    Cultural Anthropologist

    I am in the process of developing a campaign to run for President and CEO of the NAACP to fulfill the visions of the founders of which we have strayed as the black nation.


  21. I have to wonder if the other reason Jennifer Livingston was not fired is due to the fact her brother is actor Ron Livingston…either way, the La station behaved disgracefully and should be sued.


  22. My dear Rhonda, please keep your head up. You will find a bigger & better PERMANENT appointment as 2013 approaches. I am in Canada and wear my hair either natural or in cornrow. I’ve experience this, and even worst. Why must one be “FORCED” to alter their looks to please? -Especially when we know these perms, etc… for our kinds of hair are highly damaging? If a woman chooses to alter her physique in any way, I believe it must be by choice.
    When my white blond colleague decided to go from AA to FF bras size, no one made or “FORCED HER” to do that. When my other Irish colleague decided to add some Great L. hair extension to hair head, and some fake butt with plastic surgery, no one criticized or forced her to do so.
    In 2013 we are still faced with these kinds of RACIST Attitudes? Rather unfortunate! Especially when others (white male & female alike) have the gut to give me the politically correct answer that it is not “really about this & that but rather because of your answer to the client, etc…”

    PLEASE REMEMBER, GREATER & BETTER WILL COME YOUR WAY IN 2013 & PLEASE DO NOT BE ASHAMED TO BE YOU. Others are not ashamed gallivanting naked on the streets, why should a professional be ashamed of how she was originally created? This is no political statement; it is just about waking up in the morning and being RHONDA in the mirror by choice, not by FORCE or conformism.

    Take Heart sista.
    All the way in canada, my husband, family and friends, even the White ones (because they are sensible) support you 100%.

    HAPPY NEW YEAR.


  23. God took a long time to create mankind. Was he thinking about skin colour, I don’t think so. So, while many of us who sits around having absolutely nothing to besides sits around and criticize, go take a look in mirror and look at yourself. And as for the station, there is no world without colour..


  24. Ever think it’s just the difference between the stations you can’t judge WKTB by KTBS low standards and practices. WKTB did the right thing in supporting Jennifer Livingston it’s sad that KTBS did not have higher ethics. But to put this on a purely race thing is ridiculous the only way you can make that statement is if WKTB doesn’t stand by another anchor that isn’t white. That’s the only way you can judge them on the low playing field of WKTB. Furthermore Ms. Rhonda Lee is not unheard she is getting her 15 minutes of fame as I just finished watching her on a national talk show program.


  25. John T.

    While I agree with the author for the most part, the guy who complained was right about one thing, no station would allow a very long haired guy to be anchorman or weatherman. I do find it interesting that woman can have hair of any length and if they get fired for super short hair or shaved heads everyone’s in an uproar but males fired for long hair and its ok.


  26. […] fired for wearing her hair natural. But in reality the loss of her job was largely a result of the following exchange that occurred on the station’s Facebook […]



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