Black Reporter Fired For Responding to Derogatory Comments About Her Natural Hair

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Maysie Maysie's picture
Black Reporter Fired For Responding to Derogatory Comments About Her Natural Hair

Black Reporter Fired For Responding to Derogatory Comments About Her Natural Hair 

Meteorologist responded to critic of her short afro 


A black female meteorologist has been fired from the ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La., she told Journal-isms, because she responded to a racial remark posted by a viewer on the station's Facebook page


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."





Rhonda Lee wrote:
"I had a meeting with my ND [news director] and GM [general manager] Friday trying to get my job back. They told me the policy I violated isn't written down, but was mentioned in a newsroom meeting about a month-and-a-half prior. A meeting I didn't attend. So when I asked what rule did I break there isn't anything to point to.

"The week I was brought in to discuss [the] last post, I was told by my ND that there were a few unclear things in the policy and that we were going to have a meeting with George Sirven, the GM about it. I was instead fired the next week — no discussion had. Sirven claims that even if a policy isn't on paper we as employees are responsible for abiding by them. There isn't anything in our employee manual talking about social media dos and don'ts. I was accountable for a rule that essentially isn't in existence."

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

Unbelievable. It was roundly applauded earlier this year that a white woman newscaster defended her weight, but it's not okay to defend your hair? I don't know why it's even a matter for comment, she's gorgeous.


Timebandit wrote:
Unbelievable. It was roundly applauded earlier this year that a white woman newscaster defended her weight, but it's not okay to defend your hair? I don't know why it's even a matter for comment, she's gorgeous.

Sorry to be contrarian, but why does it matter that she is "gorgeous"?

The United States is a shitty little country where the rights of everyone are for sale, and cheaply at that.

What shocked me in this story (shouldn't have) is that under the guise of having a Facebook page, this station apparently allowed racist and bigoted comments to fester without moderation, censorship, etc. This woman obviously couldn't remain demure in the face of such crap, and she responded - apparently more than once.

Individual stories about dismissal, discipline, etc. get complicated, and the links Maysie provided do give the employer's version of what happened as well. They claim they fired Rhonda Lee for "repeated violation of the station's written procedure" on how to respond to such comments. On the same day, they say they also fired a white male 8-year veteran reporter for the same "offence".

Lee was also fired in August 2011 by her previous employer and is pursuing a discrimination law suit. If she does in this case as well, perhaps all the facts will come out - although the "justice" system in the U.S. doesn't leave much room for optimism in that regard.



Ken Burch

You're right...her right to respond to hate speech shouldn't be tied to her appearance at all.

Timebandit Timebandit's picture

It doesn't matter in the larger sense. It just makes her critic seem all the more nitpicky. Her hair's great.


I actually think Timebandit has a point - of course not to do with whether Ms Lee is a beauty, but in terms of grooming. Remember that Timebandit also works in a media-related field. A "professional appearance", however defined, is a requirement for television reporters, meteorologists etc. And this person most certainly had that. 

While sexist, racist and generally idiotic and offensive, I wouldn't actually call Emmet Vascocu's crap "hate speech". It is more patronising and demeaning than hateful, another form of racism/sexism that is just as unacceptable. What is even worse than that ijut's nonsense is the attitude of her employer. 


To me, the original comment about her hair was more sexist than racist (though both seemed to be at play, and Louisiana isn't exactly the most accepting of racial difference). The concept that women, in order to be attractive, have to have long hair is antediluvian. I thought the response that Ms. Lee gave to the commenter was reasoned and provided context to someone who was clearly ignorant about both the gendered and cultural choices women make about their hair (or any other aspect of physical appearance).

I suspect the ABC affiliate was looking for a reason to fire her.  I hope she sues their collective asses and deprives the news org of considerable revenue.

ETA: As Ms. Lee points out, for African American women, the way they choose to do their hair is less a fashion choice and much more a statement of who they are.  You will notice that most high profile African American women on the major news networks conform to the European ideal of what women's hair should look like. Hard to say whether it's their personal choice or the pressure from the industry.  That Ms. Lee chooses to reject the European model and embraces her natural hair is central to her identity as an African American woman.  

The viewer's comments are certainly ignorant, sexist, with implied racism.  The affiliate's behavior is far more racist, far more damaging.  They fired her because of how she chose to identify as an African American woman. 

Sean in Ottawa

I agree with this mostly.

I don't think the viewer comment was just implying racism -- in identifying race the viewer was making it about race.

The comment form the viewer was disgusting and the response from the station absolutely horrible.

However, I think to point out that this is loaded with sexism is quite key as I think that seems to be missed by many people. Men only have to look professional but many people expect women to be something else.

This woman, certainly cannot be accused of looking anything but professional and any other comment about her is not relevant except that our society chooses to go there. This is the same with all public figures who are female. Women have to be sexy and attractive-- men just have to be reasonably clean cut. This is a huge difference and it is deeply offensive.