All Of This Because Of An Afro?!: Meteorologist Fired After Defending Her Hair On Facebook

61 comments
December 12, 2012 ‐ By

Source: wcpo.com

Apparently, it’s pretty hard out here for a black woman trying to make it in this world as a meteorologist. Rhonda Lee has learned this lesson over and over again in her career as a journalist. Most recently she learned that in addition to her race, her hair was another point of contention from a Facebook user. Her response to the racially offensive statement eventually led to Lee being fired from KTBS, the ABC affiliate station in Shreveport, Louisiana.

It all started on October 1, when Emmit Vascocu commented on KTBS’ Facebook page, questioning the station’s choice to let Lee report the weather with a short afro. Here’s what he had to say:

“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).”

As someone who works for a black women’s website, I can say that these comments are not uncommon. When people are afforded anonymity through the internet, some very hateful, often racist things are stated. But just because you work for the media, doesn’t mean you have to just shut up and take the abuse. So in defense of herself and her hair, Rhonda Lee responded to Vascocu, very politely if you ask me.

“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.”

The conversation should have ended there; but Vascocu responded with this:

“. . . this world has . . . certain standerd (cq). if you’ve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?. . .”

Do I really have to break down everything that’s wrong with the logic above? Is accepting a classist, societal station the same as accepting and embracing the natural, genetic combinations that make us appear the way we do? I think not. Moving on. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the last time, a viewer used the station’s Facebook page to address what they felt was a racial “issue.”

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  • Kimmie

    Unbelieveable! One of the benefits of social networks is being able to communicate with your viewers, and for viewers to communicate with “celebs.” Now, I saw nothing wrong with her reply. She purpose of the comment was to 1. educate the ignorant about African-American hair and its properties 2. let people know that she’s a healthy, (non-cancer having), woman who’s proud of her hair despite our racist climate.

    How does her hair have anything to do with her journalism skills? Are you kidding me right now? It’s a shame this is even a topic.-_-

    If the station didn’t appreciate her commentary, they shouldve told her “Please, don’t do that again. This is a warning.” and kept her on staff. The fact that she got fired immediately insinuates that the station may side with the viewers and their opinion on her natural hair.

  • AB

    I thought she was fired for responding “inappropriately” to a Facebook post.
    If what she says is true unwritten policy is no policy at all and she should take them to task for their actions.
    But I admit to missing the hair commentary and how it pertains to her poor (possibly illegal) treatment.

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  • olivia

    She should have taken a cue from the overweight anchor, gone to her producers and addressed the viewer’s comments on the air.

    In her position she had an opportunity to open a constructive dialogue about her hair. Instead she let her ego get the best of her and felt that she had to “educate” this old fool.

    Also, we should note that this was the SECOND TIME that she had done this. She had been previously warned about addressing viewers on FB. She chose to ignore the memo and it cost her a job.

    That simple…

    • Eggy

      Let me get this straight. The policy states (and let’s ignore the fact that there really is NO stated policy….just that it was mentioned at a meeting that she was not in attendance to a month prior..) that the employee cannot respond at all to any comment made on the company’s website. Yet the company doesn’t have any contingency planning on how to limit idiotic responses on the website? How does that make sense? The company should have some kind of policy or some person in charge to moderate their forum. I can’t come here and start inflammatory comments toward the staff of MN and not think I’m going to get banned eventually. Her commentary was as constructive as I can think of for someone who is obviously limited in his exposure to the african american community.

      • olivia

        She and the rest of the staff were given advice in the form of a memorandum in August a full two months prior to her first FB response.

        Organizational directives do not need to be explicitly stated in a policy manual. In this case, the memo was verbal warning she received was sufficient.

        The company does have someone on staff to address viewer complaints and concerns. She chose to handle the matter on her own and was thusly terminated.

        • olivia

          *the memo AND verbal warning*

          CORRECTION

  • get real

    Wow. When it comes to white folks u blk women sure do know your place. White folks slamming this blk womans hair and you idiots say she was wrong for not only defending herself but every blk woman in America. “She shouldn’t have responded on the news website”. Well have a moderator to overview the comment page and delete garbage like that. You fire her because of some “don’t respond policy” yet you don’t have the policy” for white folks posting racist comments. The majority of u blk women on this site are pathetic, ignorant souls.

  • FromUR2UB

    Sounds like they were just waiting to get her for something. A policy that a company expects its employees to adhere to is 1) put in writing, and 2) posted where employees can see it, or on their intranet where employees can access it. They should have been able to furnish a copy of it upon request, along with her signature acknowledging that she had been previously made aware of it. Furthermore, if they believe folks should accept abuse from the public, then they should step up and defend their people against attacks. This is a load of BS, especially since she was very respectful in her response. She should hire herself a lawyer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cynthia.m.smith.71 Cynthia Marie Smith

    IT IS SAD THAT WE AS BLACK WOMEN IN AMERICA HAVE TO ALTER OURSELVES STILL, TO E ACCEPTED. I STILL GET RACIST STARES AND COMMENTS ABOUT MY HAIR AND WHAT IS MOST DISHEARTNINING IS MY OWN PEOPLE SAY SOME OF THE DUMBEST MESS I EVER HEARD. BECAUSE THEY STILL HATE THEMSELVES……. FOR BEING BLACK WITH KINKY HAIR

  • Ann

    I dont think they should have not fired her. She is a beautiful black woman who was professional in her response. She did not cuss or use deragatory language.

  • ashley79

    I guess she wouldn’t of been fired if she was white, fat, had a husband that was the executive producer, and had a famous brother. Just saying…

  • thatonegirl

    At some point someone has stop the fu&kery before it gets out of control. Her response was professional & pc.

  • Kristina

    Maybe madame nior can hire this woman with a career that our people can appreciate

  • featherimiss

    Even if there was not a policy about responding to the public. Why did she feel the need to respond?

    She is a professional woman who enjoyed her choice of style…I thought her reply was great. But still this still is just the way she chose to wear HER hair…you cannot speak for all women (and not just black women have curly/coily hair).

    And yes in her reply she did the same thing that he did. What’s with this comment, “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.

    …so is this a negative to women who chose a different style…are they contributing less.

    I have not put a relaxer in my hair in 5 years…and I chose all kind of styles because I enjoy the look…and I enjoy taking great care of myself.

    long story short….yes she should have been fired…because her actions were very unprofessional and insecure. Plus in the end of the day…no one REALLY cared about her hair..but I bet most really appreciated her telling them weather…that’s where she was setting a good example for little black girls.

    • Cuteprettyone

      Well said. I was trying to undertand the logic of why she felt the need to express her thoughts on women of color who use straighteners and feel the need to provide a rationale to an individual. If she was that secure and comfortable why respond. Social media will continue to be the downfall. Freedom of speech does not always mean freedom of speech. This was a battle not worth responding to. Clicking the delete button would have been an appropriate action. A true professional would not have responded. Sorry but she acted ratchet disguised with “professionalism”.

  • GTFOH

    There was no reason to fire her for this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.f.vorhees Jason Fangz Vorhees

    Ohhh this is going to be a slippery slope. If the station cant show
    documentation that they have spoken to her about policy violation before
    she might as well go head and get a lawyer. If they can well she might
    be up sh*ts creek. Now i know we all have done it starting a new job.
    On the first day or 2 we all are handed “the handbook” with all rules
    and regulation and instead of actually reading all of it we fly right
    through (maybe peeking at the dress code) and then sign the waiver.
    Most of us say to ourselves “i know how to act at work”. But in cases
    like this if it is in the handbook she should have known and claiming
    ignorance to the policy by no means makes you less accountable. I wish
    her luck.

    • olivia

      They sent the memo in August. She responded to viewers via FB in October and November I believe.

      She was also verbally counseled. She was well aware of the company’s position on this issue but took matter into her own hands when she felt that they were not doing enough to show her support.

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  • http://www.yourtango.com/users/cheekee-baby cheekee baby

    I believe her responses were perfectly stated. Just not for an on-air personality. Yes she was rocking the hell outta that fro, but there needs to be a separation from the public when it comes to news personalities. They must appear to be neutral and above squabbling. I’m sorry they cannot go in on viewers because they were personally offended by their comments. The station should be monitoring that website any how and actively removing posts such as that.

    How the station handled this was wrong. They will probably get away with it though by citing some general all encompassing clause in her contract about personal conduct etc.

  • me

    For me … I would not have said anything. I say that because I have worked in the business for years. One of the first things you learn in journalism is that a thick skin is a MUST – especially in television journalism, and especially when you are black. It is a simple matter of picking battles. I get why she was offended but I would have just let that go and chalked it up to the fool’s ignorance. I would be speaking up all the time if I responded each time someone said some crazy mess to me. Given the fact that this is not the first issue along these lines that she’s had in the workplace, something tells me she probably opens her mouth a lot when it probably isn’t needed. I don’t think she should have been fired but all of this could have probably been avoided had she stopped responding after she got warned by the station the first time. *shrugs* Sounds to me like her hair is not the issue – if that was the case she would have been canned before now. People are going to have to understand that in the era of social media and Web anonymity this sort of thing will happen. You can’t always respond. It’s not always worth it. Times like this I am glad I stopped messing with FB, period. Too much drama.

    • realadulttalk

      Thank you as well! I don’t see how as professionals we don’t know that responding at all was going to be an issue.

      • lovely

        Please he attacked her personally with the hair comment. As if what she was born with is not acceptable and honestly has nothing to do with her giving a weather report. Thick skin has nothing to do with this. Even the President responds to personal attacks. I hope she sues the pants off the station. There was nothing unprofessional within her responses. Her station should stick by her, the same way that station did for the WHITE woman who made an on air response to a viewer who made a comment about her being overweight.

        • realadulttalk

          Uh huh–was it her personal page or her jobs? So is it a personal attack or a comment on the jobs page? No her station should not stick by her. She affected their customers (and no one know if she affected sponsors). Everyone keeps saying she didn’t say anything wrong…I beg to differ. The entire tone of her responses (as well as much of the language) was snarky as hell. That was intentional. That white woman you speak of didn’t handle her ish this messy–she went through the proper channels. She can sue–doubt she’d win…especially if she’s gonna try to pull the race card. She wasn’t fired for her hair–she was fired for her mouth. She will continue to be fired until she learns to handle herself more professionally.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Saint/100001058750441 Jason Saint

      There is definitely a point here.. When you work in a “professional” or a corporate structured environment, you are expected to operate with a certain amount of decorum. The ability to pick your battles is also a necessary ability to learn… Doesn’t anyone else feel like the simple act of appointing a moderator to weed out trash comments like that would have gone a long way to avoiding the situation as well ? I am a firm believer in one’s freedom of speech, but you also mustn’t allow others to to spit ignorance without regard for others.. Call me an idealist.. but i equate it to the guy spilling expletives at a restaurant while you are sitting with your kids.. at some point, you either ask to be reseated or you ask the guy to shut his mouth.. but you aren’t helping anybody by allowing him to continue. idk.. I realize this is a loaded issue.

  • smh

    They are wrong like 2 left shoes!

  • http://www.facebook.com/lashton Leah Ashton

    I don’t agree that she was wrong for responding. The station was wrong to fire her. They also should have seen the comment that prompted her to respond both times. Since the rule they claim as broken was spoken at a meeting she didn’t attend, she should have only been warned and both comments should have been taken down and they should have issued a comment to the guy protecting their employee and others like her.

  • Cleo

    I saw this on a another site and it really made me think, why the heck do we have to keep defending our natural hair?? This is how it sprouts out of our scalps and we are suppose to feel bad about that?? Her response was genius and very informative… I know she will find a bigger and better job

  • Meyaka

    She had the right to defend herself if she saw it fit,her hair looks good to me.

  • http://twitter.com/Nerdstradamas Kendra

    She seemed very respectful with her comments and took the time to try to attempt the foolish commentators.

  • jussjess

    I would sue them. Even if you didn’t get anything. It shows them that they can not get away with treating people like that and gives others a platform. Yet again ignorance continues to stomp America into oblivion.

  • samantha

    She should get a lawyer and sue their arses for discrimination. There was no written policy for her “misbehavior”. If the policy is not written and made VERY clear, you shouldn’t be able to fire someone without warning or cause. This just seems like wrongful termination to me.

    • kierah

      If they think she had damaged the station brand by her comments on the FB page, that would be the cause.
      Furthermore it says a white male was also dismissed for the same thing. Her case wouldn’t go anywhere.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Saint/100001058750441 Jason Saint

    You really hate to read stuff like this.. further proof that ignorance and bigotry is still alive and well in the world. I am a 30 year old white male and stuff like this makes my blood boil. Rhonda is an obviously intelligent and confident woman who has worked to get where she is. Isn’t that what we teach kids.. ? I really don’t feel like this will be a hindrance to Ms. Lee in the long run though. The stench of double standards, overt and ambiguous racism is so strong, it will attract the attention of a good lawyer in no time.
    I want to thank you all for the quality journalism you put forth on this site. Keep up the good work

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Saint/100001058750441 Jason Saint

      I would however, be interested to see if any other employees besides the ones fired, were engaging in correspondence with the public via the same account.. It seems to me though that even if management felt like she was over stepping by going “tit for tat” with these viewers, there could have been a more proactive approach then sacking her. Admonish her, and then actually institute the social networking policy. Also, assign a moderator to the forum who can set a standard for the site.

      • Laine

        I agree with you 100% !! Off topic…., I was pleasantly surprised to see a 30 year old white male commenting on a website like this…haha,..how did you stumble upon this page?? What were you “googling”??

  • sexcgenius

    Thanks Veronica for highlighting a real story that effects our community. It is sad that we still have to fight these fights as Americans. If this was an article about BBW or RHOA, the comments section would be flooded with mindless opinions; however, not may bothered to read this story. I guess that is why MN and the other sites deal in dirt. Keep fighting the good fight and writing stories that matter.

  • realadulttalk

    Let’s be very clear here–she did not get fired for defending her hair. She got fired for not knowing when to shut the heck up. She was not on her personal fb page–she really did not need to respond at all. IMO her lack of professionalism is why she was fired. I would have fired her as well–it’s common sense that you don’t do a tit for tat like that.

    • jussjess

      You can not obey some on the fly rule that just magically appeared to get you fired. If this rule was in place and known by the employees, that would’ve been a difference. These company’s do what ever they want, regardless of the consequence. As for her going tit for tat, there was nothing remotely offensive about anything that she wrote. She was having a dialogue with a person. These day, you can’t say anything, you’re wrong if you do and wrong if you don’t so let’s just be real about the situation. They wanted her gone, they made up a rule and now she’s gone.

      • realadulttalk

        I don’t think the rule needed to be in place–I consider it very much a common sense thing. And it doesn’t have to be offensive–it’s still unnecessary. I don’t agree with the “she was wronged” stance–I’m on the “she should have known better” team.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Malaika-Angel/100000835938433 Malaika Angel

          Since when is it “unprofessional” to reply to a comment on a social network. Many people do it, including those who work for the media. She did nothing wrong. It’s not about “common sense.” If sense was common, then everyone would have it – and they clearly don’t. In this case, she was discriminated again. Case closed.

          • realadulttalk

            You can comment as much as you’d like on YOUR social media account. Common sense you don’t do it on the jobs. I run all the social media at my job–I’d never respond to someone like this-and if one of my employees did they would be fired.

          • Cakester

            It is unprofessional to reply to a comment on a social network through the company’s page. This ignorant comment was posted on the company’s page, so while I understand her need to defend herself, I don’t think it was her place. Some higher up from the company should have responded in her defense and in the company’s defense. Them not doing so, shows poor taste on their part. Her, going back and forth with a viewer, shows poor taste on her part. She should have printed out his original comment and taken that to the GM. AND, I’m sure they have a marketing manager who is responsible for monitoring and replying to comments and suggestions on all social media websites. She should have let that person to their job. Not everyone is going to be a fan of how we look, dress, and wear our hair, however; when we take certain jobs that put us on the forefront of the company, we have to be prepared to take the criticism that comes along with that position and trust that the company will support us and the decision they made to hire us. Taking matters into your own hands at the expense of a company is a no no. That’s why there are marketing managers and PR people to do that for us.

            • Cakester

              Now, did they have to fire her? NO… but a slap on the hand is necessary, and since the policy was never in writing, a formal SOP on handling social media needs to be distributed immediately!

            • get real

              Its not her place to defend herself but a white “higher up” should have instead? See how dumb and programmed u sound? Remember that fat white news lady who responded on air about critisism of her being fat? Did she get fired? No. Its only when blk folks embrace their heritage is when the problems start. And dummies like u want blk folks to hush up ad let white folks defend andor speak up for us.

              • guest

                The fat chick:

                A) Worked for another station with different policies

                B) Did not get into a FB feud with the person who criticized her

                C) Got permission to respond from her bosses. The network gave her the green light to address his comments on the air.

                Do your research before responding. Thanks in advance.

              • realadulttalk

                You forgot a word-employed. See how EMPLOYED she sounds?

                • Cakester

                  RIGHT!!!! You can say whatever you want, if you don’t mind being unemployed… I would love to know where some of these people work, that think it was okay for her to do what she did…. I don’t care how eloquently written her response was, it was wrong because it was on the company page. Point blank!

              • Cakester

                Anyone with a corporate job knows better than to comment on a PUBLIC site on the company’s page. Her letting some idiot (kinda like yourself) ruffle her feathers on facebook, cost her a job, not the person who made the ignorant comment. It’s not about me being programmed, its about me as one of the only Black directors in my company, keeping my job and working extra hard to make sure that I don’t allow the opinions of others about me, affect sending my son to a private school and paying my mortgage. Its about knowing that not everyone is going to like things about me, but loving my career more, its about giving the “higher ups” (no matter what color they are) a chance to make it right or give me the opportunity and a platform to do it on my own. So you see, if you want to pop off at every idiot that offends you, you’ll find yourself at a place where you can be outspoken, saying, “Would you like to super size that?” So dummies like you need to learn and understand when to shut up… have no doubt she would have gotten a chance to speak out when it was appropriate but now, all everyone knows is that she got fired for doing something reckless, not at the wonderful response she sent that person regarding her hair. Thank you.

          • me

            It was not her page though – that was the first problem. As other posters have said, it should have been handled by whoever handles their social media. My company has a VERY strict social media policy that applies to FB and Twitter and only designated people can comment on company matters through those channels. It is very much about common sense. I really don’t think this is a case of discrimination.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Malaika-Angel/100000835938433 Malaika Angel

          Oh, BTW, there’s a saying, “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” If companies have a policy, it needs to be in writing. That’s common sense.

          • realadulttalk

            Does your company have a “do not come to work naked” policy in writing? Or do you just know not to do that? Does your company have a “don’t curse your superior out policy” or do you just know better? Her viewers are her customers–like it or hate it–you just don’t handle yourself in this manner if you are a professional.

            • Cakester

              I wish I could go in on every ignorant person that talks to me negatively at my job, but I’d be unemployed… there are some things you just don’t do and while I totally understand her feelings and agreed with her reply, she was out of line and should have let the company delete the comment and block that person or reply back to the person…taking matters in her own hands is why she got fired.

              • realadulttalk

                I agree–I know I would have wanted to comment as well. I also know that if I had I’d be fired. I cannot count the amount of times I’ve literally had to bite my tongue to keep my mouth shut. Her desire to comment is normal–very–I even said I might have created a fake account in order to do so.

      • http://www.facebook.com/jason.f.vorhees Jason Fangz Vorhees

        If they wanted her gone she would have been gone long before this ever happened. And how is the rule on the fly if its documented in the codes and conduct employee handbook?

    • TeahMonae

      I was thinking the same thing when I read the article! She should have just ignored those comments. There was no need to respond, defend and basically argue with a viewer back and forth on facebook! Yes, she was respectful in her comments but she shouldnt have said anything at all. There are many times in a day that I WANT to respond to some of the ignorant people (both co-workers and external) that I encounter during the course of performing my job duties! Point being, I CANT. So I call my husband, mama, or friend to vent to them, which is what she should have done and she’d probably still have a job!

      • realadulttalk

        Thank you!! If it was her account-I’d say go hard mama. But it wasn’t–that’s the problem. If I spoke or responded every time I felt inclined I’d never have a job. I get her desire to respond–she could have created a fake account if she had to say something.

    • kierah

      ITA – this is not a natural hair issue. A designated spokesperson should address commenters on the company FB/Twitter/Instagram pages.

      There should be written policy on social media at the station, if they view it as a cause for termination though.
      The first time she fired back in regards to her hair, the anchor should have been warned about engaging with commenters.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8210721 Joy Kamille

      Wow. I was reading the comments hoping to find a voice of dissent and not just the typical rah rah we tend to do at the first head nod of racism and here it is… and I totally agree. I myself have a natural and work in communications. I can’t specilate why she got fired specifically but I agree that she passed the threshold of knowing when to shut the hell up a long time ago.
      This is not two people beefing on the street but more like in the stations lobby while she is on the clock with her name badge on and mic in hand. A PR representative should have been the one to address the comments, if at all, in the best light for the station. That should have been followed up by security/moderator removing the person from view if necessary. Her taking that “light work” into her own hands is a GIANT NO NO at her level. Defending the fundraiser… NO NO. The bickering reduces her. TV personalities, particularly for the news, need to remain above that.
      She made a mistake and I really hope she gets her job back.

  • ANTMilf

    She’s beautiful and it’s a damn shame she got fired for defending her natural hair. And as for the “if you’ve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?” comment: so basically our curly hair is below the world’s standard now? They are rags that we should have ditched? After what…… slavery?

No thanks