Meteorologist Fired for Having to Explain Her "Ethnic Hair"

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Meteorologist Fired for Having to Explain Her "Ethnic Hair"

In Shreveport, Louisiana, meteorologist Rhona A. Lee was fired from KTBS-TV for her response to a viewer who commented on Facebook that she, referred to as "the black lady," needed to do something wiht her hair because he doesn't think it "looks good." According to Clutch (via Journal-isms), here is interaction (some bits I have placed in bold):


On Oct. 1, a viewer identified as 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. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq).”

Lee replied the same day, “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.”

Vascocu replied that Lee was right to be proud of who she is and that he is not a racist, but “. . . this world has . . . certain standerd (cq). if youve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?. . .”

Ms. Lee was fired for her erudite and, in my opinion, extremely gracious response to the fucking-idiot-bigot who wrote this Facebook missive.

The entire situation epitomizes the subtle yet explicit form of racism known as "covering" that legal schlar Kenji Yoshino articulates in his book Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. In this brilliant text Yoshino explains how modes of covering—from enforced Anglo-hairstyles to linguistic dialect and behaviors—threaten our individuality and enable a form of covert racism that is legal within our extant Constitution. He discusses a similar case to Ms. Lee's about an African-American flight attendant who lost her federal case in court over the demand that she change her hair or lose her job. (She refused to remove her dreds, but the court found that this demand was not an illegal form of discrimination protected against in our civil rights laws.)

The forces of assimilation in our society, which affect everyone—regardless of race, sex, gender—demand acts of covering by everyone. As PrawfsBlawg, invoking Yoshino, explains,

"the law protects a black person from getting fired on account of being black, but it does not protect her from getting fired for "acting" black.  (The example used by Yoshino is a black woman who wears her hair in a distinctively black style.)  As a result of this lack of protection, people must "cover" their true natures and identities.  They aren't passing as something they aren't, but they are covering: muting their own qualities in order to "fit in" with the mainstream."

Ms. Lee's response evokes Yoshino's argument; she fully understands her position in this situation and is trying to force a moment of education. Sadly, what she doesn't realize is that positions of/coming from ignorance are the ones in power....especially in America.

Comments [4]

SMBrown's picture

Her firing is an outrage!  We

Her firing is an outrage!  We need a petition for this and a boycott of the TV station.  Going to find their FB page right now and give them a piece of my mind.

Evie Frishman's picture

Written on Rhonda A. Lee's Facebook wall:

"I'm horrified by KTBS's treatment of you. For what it's worth, I think you look amazing and absolutely drop-dead gorgeous with your natural hair, but that's not really what this is about. Every woman and man should have the right to present her/himself as s/he feels is appropriate. I'm pretty sure that the station would never have dignified that viewer's email with any sort of response had you been male.
I wish you boundless luck, and a platform so widely witnessed that this travesty will be the last of its kind."

Evie Frishman's picture

My God,

I find it so profoundly disturbing that in this day and age of supposed sophistication, a highly capable, erudite and professional woman can be fired, simply for refusing to succumb to social /media pressure to conform to some bleached out ideal of acceptability! I'm beyond disgusted.

Grace Moon's picture

srsly unbelievable?!

srsly unbelievable?!

tweet tweet @gracemoon