Did you hear the one about the black meteorologist named Rhonda Lee from Louisiana? She was terminated following her response to a viewer’s expression of possibly derogatory concern, via Facebook, regarding her hair, which is a TWA…
Yeah, it wasn’t funny to me either.
The Facebook of Adversity
The viewer stated:
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).
Ms. Lee’s response was:
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.
Now, I must confess that when I first read about this, I was inconsolably outraged. My first instinct was to stand squarely behind my naptural sistah, fist raised to the heavens. Have we not reached a point where a woman’s appearance is kept separate from her ability to do her job? Is society still trying to hold non-whites to a standard of beauty that is palatable for some but not all?
Rhonda, bomaye! Rhonda, bomaye!
I saw nothing wrong with her handling of the situation. She approached the comment with intellect, insight, and respect.
Then I started reading some of the comments following the article on Black Girl with Long Hair. At the time there were only a handful (maybe about 30), and most of them expressed the same outrage I was feeling when I read the article. People called the action taken uncalled-for. People said that the viewer had to be a racist or closed-minded at the least. I read through many of the comments, fist still raised in solidarity, emotions running high for the injustice that had been done to this natural-haired martyr. But some of the comments supported the network’s decision to terminate. Some questioned whether or not race had really played a role in this issue.
Shoulda Woulda Coulda
Hmmm… maybe Ms. Lee could be accused of having said too much. Perhaps it would have been better for her to have allowed the network’s PR people handle the comment? They could have issued a statement saying something like
The network takes all necessary steps to ensure that members of its news team look their best while in front of the camera. We support Ms. Lee’s choice of hairstyle and thank you for your loyal viewership.
Ooooooooooooooooooh, that’s gooooood…. but I digress.
Dose of Reality
Those BGLH comments got me thinking. Is it possible that the network actually had a strict policy on public relations and social media, and that they had clearly communicated that policy to all of its staff? Could it be that Ms. Lee had violated that policy?
Methinks that might be legitimate grounds for dismissal…
A Little Light Soapboxing
Let’s talk for a minute about Ms. Lee’s fortitude.
Some commentors accused her of bringing race into the situation when it didn’t belong there. However, it was actually the viewer who pulled race into it by identifying her by her skin colour and not by her name. Despite the professional tone of her response, Ms. Lee was still somehow put into the “Angry Black Woman” category. One thing that bothers me is that the second someone asserts him or herself (regardless of sex, race, orientation, religion, or political views) that person is automatically seen as being defensive.
Now let’s talk about people being so quick to assume the Big Bad Corporate Man has been unfair or unjust.
It’s easy to be blinded by the fact that something allegedly unfair is happening to a visible minority. Because the “victim” here is a black woman whose hair doesn’t look like the conventional professional, we rush to her defense. Because she is educated and articulate, we assume that she is within her rights to dress down people who are supposedly being racist, derogatory, or offensive.
But before we make such judgements or take sides, shouldn’t we get all the facts?
That is all.