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.

What do you think of Rhonda Lee’s experience, Clutchettes? Should she have responded? Is KTBS-TV justified for firing her?

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  • silkynaps

    As a Black woman with short natural hair, I’m hard-pressed to see how the viewer’s comments were interpreted as racist. Not everything is racist. His complaint was that her was too short for his taste…which is not an uncommon opinion coming from a man. Regardless of race.

    Want to complain about something? Complain that the viewer was a sexist pig, probably jerking it to the thought of her having long hair to pull on.

    I know people are really heated about this and really want it to be about race, but the post omits that the lady has been reprimanded for the same behavior in the past. My job would never have to tell me twice to stay off Facebook.

    It sucks that she chose the wrong battle and lost her job over a misinterpreted comment. Maybe we, as a people, need to be a little less sensitive, more objective, and learn to understand others as well as helping people understand us. That and stay the f*ck off Facebook…

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  • TK

    I used to work in television news and I think that her response was fine until she said “GOD”. Usually media outlets, or companies in general don’t want to affiliate themselves with religion. She also said “Confirming isn’t what being American is about” which is tantamount to calling a viewer a terrorist as far as a news station is concerned. You do have to think about how far reaching your comments can be, even if you are rightfully educating someone who is ignorant about your culture. There is a time and place for everything and although I agree with what she said in her “history lesson” it was unprofessional to do so. She should have responded under another name or anonymously, because when you’re a public figure (working for a news station), it’s not all about you. Your image is the company’s image and she could have potentially cost the station viewers.

  • Joe Nadukkudiyil

    I would imagine that you could well get the ACLU interested in championing the beautiful Ms. Lee. In the absence of a written directive I believe this would be considered wrongful termination. I thought Ms. Lee’s response was well articulated and well argued and mature.