Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fired for having natural hair?

In this screenshort taken from CNN, meteorologist Rhonda Lee reacts after KTBS TV station fired her after she replied to viewer criticism of her natural hairstyle. 

If you haven't already read about Rhonda Lee, she is a meteorologist  working in Shreveport Louisiana. She was fired for responding to a criticism via Facebook about her hair. She alleges that her appearance had been an issue previously. He employer claim that she broke with company policy when she responded. Her response was professional, polite and unapologetic.

The viewer (Emmitt Vascocu) 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….”
Ms. Lee responded:
“Hello Emmitt—I am the 'black lady' to which you are referring. I’m sorry you don't like my ethnic hair…. 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…. 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.”
The same station recently fired a white male for the same offense. 
He is openly homosexual and defended himself as well.

Her employees say she violated the same policy in a incident where a viewer alleged that all the children involved in a particular broadcast were of color. Ms. Lee asked to see the policy she had violated in writing and was told that it wasn't written down. She is currently suing her former employers.

The viewer later wrote, "you are very right to be proud of where you are from and I do respect that" and publicly apologized to Lee.

This isn't the first time that Lee's hairstyle has affected her job. "I've even had a news director once say that my hair was too aggressive for Sacramento, so I wasn't even allowed to interview at that point," she told CNN. 

I'm inclined to believe that being fired for violating a policy that doesn't exist in writing had more to do with her unapologetic pride in her ethnicity and less to do with her very polite FB comments. What do you think?

You can sign a petition here, to try and have Ms. Lee reinstated.