Rhonda Lee, Black Meteorologist, On Getting Fired For Speaking Out About Her Hair
Two weeks ago, we were disturbed to learn the story of Rhonda Lee, a black meteorologist who was fired from KTBS-TV in Shreveport, Louisiana, after she responded in the comments, kindly and politely, to two racist Facebook posts written by viewers on the station’s page. One of the racist posts, in fact, had even been “liked” by the station. You can read the full back story here.
Today, the news program “Democracy Now!” has an interview with Lee about her firing. (Warning: there is a minute-long request for donations from “Democracy Now!” before the segment airs, as the program is independently owned and completely advertising-free.)
“Democracy Now!” invited KTBS to the interview and they declined to send a representative. Instead, the program left a recording (presumably on an answering machine?) with a statement. From a journalistic point-of-view, let me make this clear that giving a statement and not responding to journalistic questions is totally the pussy way out. They know they did something wrong and they do not want to have to respond to it.
In the statement, KTBS claims that Rhonda Lee was fired for being unprofessional by writing comments on the company website, which was against the company policy. First of all, I think that referring to a Facebook page as “the company website” is disingenuous to put it mildly. Second of all, the policy that they are referring to has been unclear from the get-go — it was in an email, not inside a company policy rulebook. Lee has confirmed that she was aware of the email that KTBS sent out with “guidelines” of “social media best practices” that said not to respond to comments. However, Lee also was not present at a company meeting where this new policy was allegedly discussed. And anyway, overall, the whole “policy” was ambiguous — and it is hard for me not to see how the sympathetic reaction by KTBS to their racist Facebook commenters was itself racist.
Ultimately, this “Democracy Now!” interview is pretty inspiring. Rhonda Lee says that she has mostly received support from across the country, which is not what she was expecting. “It has opened eyes,” Lee told host Amy Goodman. “It has been a good talking point, a good catalyst for perhaps moving the conversation about black women and our hair in the 21st century and beyond.” I really hope she sues their asses over this incident.
In the meantime, I think she is exactly the role model for young black women that she hopes to be. She is so inspiring and I continue to wish her the best of luck.