When KTBS-TV meteorologist Rhonda Lee responded to a negative comment left by a viewer on KTBS Facebook page, she had no idea that respectfully and professionally expressing her reasons for embracing her natural hair would lead to her termination from the Louisiana news station.
The comment was about Lee’s close-shaven haircut, and although the remark was short, the snarky quip suggested that she cover her own natural hairstyle with a wig or grow some more hair to appease the uncomfortable viewer who questioned whether she was a cancer patient. It read “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 [sic]."
Lee’s measured and tactful response discussed her pride in her African-American ancestry, graciously explained the texture of her hair and even touched on the complications of the standards of beauty. "I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair," said Lee. "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."
Despite her efforts and display of patience, Lee was fired from her position as meteorologist for reportedly violating company policy against responding to viewer comments on social media.
The question of whether or not natural hair is an appropriate style in the workplace has been a topic that has been discussed for awhile now. As recent as earlier this month, we were discussed the Vice Magazine article that questioned readers if the felt their natural hair had negatively affected them professionally. An article on CurlyNikki.com by Skinny Kenny delves even further into the blatant discrimination a person with naturally curly hair can face in supposed professional settings and adds to the number of inappropriate incidences that now include the Shreveport meteorologist.
Throughout the year, incidences involving the policing of natural hair have become more and more common. The preoccupation with how black women are choosing to wear their hair continues to grow, from women reluctantly having their afros checked by intrusive TSA agents in the airport around the country, to the media’s prolonged fascination with Viola Davis’ choice to ditch her wig when she’s off camera.
These stories add to the conversation about beauty standards when it comes to race and gender as well as the importance of exploring the need for diversity and representation but it’s time for the policing of women’s bodies including their hair and the attempts to silence those who dare to speak out against glaring discrimination to end.
What do you think? Should Rhonda Lee have been fired for responding to a Facebook comment?