Don’t Try To Save Your Haters: Lessons Learned From The Rhonda Lee Controversy

December 14, 2012  |  


Rhonda Lee, the Louisiana based meteorologist, spoke with Roland Martin on the Tom Joyner Morning show yesterday about her termination from KTBS, a local ABC Affiliate, for responding to derogatory comments about her natural hair, among other things, made on the station’s Facebook page.

If you haven’t read the full details of the story, Veronica Wells does a great analysis of the situation; therefore it is no need to reiterate again.  But listening to Lee explain the sequence of events to Martin, there are two things to note about this story: First, Lee’s termination doesn’t compare at all to the story of Jennifer Livingston, a Wisconsin reporter, who took to the airways and responded to a viewer, who reprimanded her via email for being overweight, thus not being “a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular.” I have heard this comparison a lot since this story went viral.  While both took a stand against bullying and harassment over the Internet, Livingston had the full support of her station (including her husband who works as an anchor for the station), who even carved out time in the news show’s broadcast for her to speak on the derogatory comment. Unfortunately for Lee, she did not have the same permission – although there is some disagreement over how this policy was or was not communicated.

Another thing to note is the difficulty in handling negative criticism, especially in this new digital age.  In short, Facebook is getting more and more people fired and Lee is its latest casualty.

Nowadays, all you have to do is click-[Insert derogatory comment here]-click and boom! Instant gratification for them; instant bruised ego, hurt feelings and painful historical reminders for you.  Nicci at FatFemPinUp recently listed a sampling all of the derogatory, vile and hateful comments she’d receive after posting a picture of herself via Twitter, with a caption, “450lbs *shrugs* and no, im not trying to lose or gain weight.” Most of the comments were so ugly and vicious that it would be hard to ignore them, if not take them to heart.  And many of them could stand to get their feelings hurt from a verbal thrashing.

However, in order to survive in this new digital age, you need a new level of patience as well as tougher than leather skin to deal with the anti-social folks. But in those instances where the tomfoolery and shenanigans are too much and you lose patience, discernment is key. As Yvette Carnell, a writer friend of mine, bluntly said recently of this controversy, don’t engage crazy. Or in more universal terms, don’t feed the trolls. Reason being, you can’t change their minds and some folks really do thrive off of attention – no matter if it is negative or positive. And responding not only fuels their debauchery but tends to derail conversation on a thread. And if a couple of commenters manage to insult both black people and cancer patients in the same sentence as well as create an elaborate conspiracy theory involving little black kids winning a free shopping trip at Wal-Mart to the mayor of the town, I really don’t think that a response, no matter how well intentioned, is worth your time, effort and energy.   Believe me, his/her stupidity is already duly noted.

In, The 4 Worst Things About Writing for the Internet, which is one of my favorite humorous articles about writing for online audiences,  Cracked writer Daniel O’Brien speaks very fluently about how veteran professionals in this digital era end up dealing with some of the more colorful forms of feedback we see in comment sections:

You can get over it. I’ve been doing this long enough that I’ve gotten plenty of comments from both ends of the spectrum of Internet Commentary, from the lows of “You’re the worst thing to ever happen to writing, I fucking hate you,” all the way to the highs of “This article wasn’t a piece of Isht like your others, I fucking hate you.” I’ve read both of those comments and everything in between them enough times that it’s all basically white noise at this point. So there’s a possibility that you’ll eventually become immune to all comments. Or you could just develop a thicker skin. Or just not read comments at all. Or you can read and intensely focus on every single comment, (though only a total lunatic would do that). Whatever. The point is, you can get to a place where comments don’t affect you at all.

With that said what a lame reason to lose your job, especially considering how innocuous her response was.  When I first heard of this story, I thought she went in on this jerk, with some colorful and derogatory language of her own.  Instead she delivered a very thoughtful reply, in my opinion, definitely not worthy of being fired over. Exactly why you should never try to save your haters.

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  • kasino31


  • D

    “When I first heard of this story, I thought she went in on this jerk, with some colorful and derogatory language of her own.” Why would you assume something like this regarding this lady? Was it because she was Black? Do we assume the worst when it is our own people? Should we assume the worst when it comes to any of your articles or any articles on Madame Noire? Why is this any different from the overweight white lady incident? The only difference was that the white lady had the support of her network. Both of these ladies were disrespected about some aspect of their physical appearance. Kanu is right, it was better that she found out now about her employer felt about her than later.

    • Danni

      No it didn’t have anything to do with her skin. It’s because she lost her JOB!!

  • There’sAnElephantInTheRoom

    This is a country that named a city in Virginia after Wil lie Lyn ch and hailed Mada me C J Wal ker for creating hair straightening products for black women. Whaddaya expect a mere few hundred years later? Seriously Sistahs. What?

  • Mia

    Very interesting. So a fat white chick can take up air time but a black woman replies on Facebook and is fired? America has a long way to go. If she was a white woman I bet you money she would still be going to work tomorrow.

  • Niceman

    Damn she’s cute..

  • bigdede

    I have always been told that it’s none of your business what people think of you. If I have haters, that means I’m doing something right. So what someone doesn’t like my hair, nose, skin tone, etc. SO FREAKIN WHAT! She had a job, just do your job and get that paycheck. So what someone doesn’t like your hair. I have no idea what has happened in the 21th century but people are too sensitive and care way too much about what people think instead of just being themselves and loving themselves. I have heard people say so many thing about me but I don’t care. Unless my mama, daddy or one of my elders who I respect is saying it, than it means nothing to me. Haters actually helps people. Like I said, if you have a hater, you are doing something right. The main reason people tear down others is because they are jealous of what you have and want you to feel as bad about yourself as they do about themselves.

  • Kanu

    I think that she should have addressed it, and she did so in an eloquent professional manner. I also think that in the long run that this incident was necessary to show Rhonda that she’s obviously not in the right place if they’re not going to back her up when someone is being racist. Keep speaking up for yourself, sis, and get that lawsuit ready. Good ridden to your station. They will get their due and bigger, better opportunities are coming your way.

  • I agree. This was a stupid reason to lose your job. I also agree, that you have to pick your battles wisely and responding to random riffraff on social media is not a good idea. For every one person who likes you, there are a thousand more who dislike something about you. As long as you love you, screw what everyone else thinks.