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UPDATE: Black Meteorologist Fired For Responding To Racist Facebook Posts, Including One About Her Hair

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Rhonda Lee

UPDATE: HuffPost has a copy of an email sent by KTBS to employees regarding the company’s “guidelines” (as they put it) for using social media — which Lee confirmed she did actually read. So, while she cannot claim she was totally unaware of how she was not supposed to respond to Facebook comments, they are only phrased as “guidelines” and “social media best practices,” not rules. You can read the email at the link. [Huffington Post]

Meteorologist Rhonda Lee has been fired by KTBS-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana, for responding to racist Facebook posts, including one about her hair. Lee was told she violated the company’s new social media policy which had been verbally announced one month prior at a meeting she did not attend. One comment Lee responded to was by a viewer griping that all the kids who won a KTBS holiday shopping spree were black. The other comment Lee responded to was by a viewer who told her to grow some hair or wear a wig.

Clutch Magazine describes how on October 1, a viewer wrote a comment on a KTBS’ Facebook page about Lee’s hair. Oh, did I mention it is RUDE? Emmit Sascocu 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).”

Yup, this guy actually told a black woman with short hair that she needs to wear a wig. Not conforming to white European standards of beauty is hurting his eyes when he watches the TV, everyone. Oh, and here is some crazy shit — THE NETWORK “LIKED” THAT COMMENT ON FACEBOOK. You guys. Really.

Lee responded on Facebook the same day to Vascocuwith much more class and grace and this rude jerk deserved:

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.

There was a more recent comment on Facebook that got Lee in trouble as well. According to the media blog Mediaite, a KTBS viewer posted several  racist comments on November 14 on the Facebook page, complaining that all the kids who won an annual contest for three-minute shopping spree at WalMart, hosted by KTBS, were “lets [sic] say, people of color.” In one of the comments, Kenny Moreland wrote:

Not to start any trouble, because I think that the annual “Three Minute Smile” is a great function and I love to see kids so happy. Am I the only one that has noticed that this year, all the kids, lets say, are people of color? This is Channel 3, not KSLA, the “Project Pride” network, that might as well be part of the BET channel. Did KTBS slip up on a news story, and owe S’port’s criminal mayor Cedric, a favor? Seems like some racism going on to me. Just saying…..

Lee claims that she alerted the station about the offensive comment — which the station kept posted on the Facebook page — and she personally responded to Moreland with this post:

I’m not sure I understand your comment. “…this is Channel 3 not KSLA…” What are you trying to say?

The children are picked at random. So there goes your theory that they are selected for their color. I would like to think that it doesn’t matter who the child is. If you truly just want to see the kids happy your message had a funny way of showing it.

Happy holidays. –Met. Rhonda Lee

And now she’s been fired.  Not warned, not suspended from the air. Fired. For breaking a “verbal” rule. Which was announced at a meeting she didn’t attend.  This whole thing is absolute bullshit.  You can’t just say someone violates a rule when the rule doesn’t formally exist. It seems to me like they wanted to get rid of Lee and used this as an excuse.

But they really, really shouldn’t have fired her. They seem more interested in getting rid of someone who stands up for herself and for what she thinks is right than actually doing that herself.  She was personally singled out in the comment about her hair and the other one about “lets say, people of color” clearly hit a button for her as well. Her responses were respectful, well-reasoned and professional. Also, why does the station leaves racist comments up on their Facebook account? Free speech means the ability to write and leave comments, which viewers have; the station is also free to keep that garbage off their Facebook wall, as it is an extension of their product. This radio station should be ashamed of themselves.

There’s nothing Rhonda Lee can do about racism — or rudeness — other than stand up to it when she sees it. But what she can also do is sue her former employer for unlawful termination, if she is able to do so under Louisiana law. She’s a rock star for standing up for herself, women of color, and those little kids who won the contest. I wish her the best.

[Mediaite]
[Clutch Magazine]
[Facebook.com/KTBS3]
[Jezebel]

Contact the author of this post at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.

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