Black women and hair: the saga continues.
Some days, I feel like I need a break from the Web, just to purge myself of all of the blood-boiling stories that go up every day. Today was no exception. I came across a particularly horrible story about Rhonda A. Lee, a meteorologist at an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La. who says she was fired for responding to negative comments about her natural hair.
In October, Lee was perusing KTBS-TV’s Facebook page when she noticed a comment from one viewer named Emmitt Vascocu, who was baffled by Lee’s short-cropped, natural style.
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. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that [sic]."
Lee responded – calmly and professionally, in my opinion – by writing, "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."
Calm, right? Courteous, to-the-point and professional despite some viewer basically telling her that wearing her hair the way it grows out of her head was inherently unprofessional because of its texture, and by implication, her race. That she should force herself to conform to his Eurocentric standard of beauty because it would make him feel more comfortable. That he was so consumed with confusion and discomfort while watching her minutes-long weather report that he took to Facebook to complain on the station’s page.
But here’s where he went past casual ignorance and decided on what looks to me like full-on racism. After saying he wasn’t racist and she should be proud of who she is, Vascocu wrote, “…this world has…certain standerd [sic]. If you’ve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?...”
According to The Root, Vascocu isn’t the only KTBS-TV viewer who is less than racially sensitive. A man named Kenny Moreland wrote in to complain about a KTBS “Three Minute Smile” function that apparently featured too many children of color.
Lee responded to this, too, albeit not as sweetly. She wrote, “The children are picked at random. So there goes your theory that they are selected for their color. I would like to think it doesn’t matter who the child is. If you truly just want to see the kids happy your message has a funny way of showing it.” Then she wished him a happy holiday season.
Instead of backing her, or deleting the Facebook comments, KTBS-TV’s station managers actually fired her, apparently claiming she broke one of the station’s rules regarding social media. When Lee pointed out that the rule was not written in the station’s social media guidelines, she says the station managers told her it was discussed in a meeting.
A meeting Lee apparently did not attend.
This is where we’re supposed to have the “we all come in different shapes, colors, sizes, etc. and we’re all wonderful” talk, much as we did a few months ago, when Jennifer Livingston, a news anchor in La Crosse, Wis. responded to an e-mail she received from a viewer who decided that her weight was unacceptable.
But I’m tired of that talk. I’m fed up with explaining why diversity is good and beautiful and natural. I’m bored of being forced to listen to antiquated ideas about race and beauty and gender. I’m sick of calmly responding to Internet trolls who throw hatred out into the world, and expect calm responses in return.
Fortunately, my generation is the most racially diverse and open-minded America has ever seen. Maybe there’s hope.
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