Fired for defending your natural hair?

Posted: December 12, 2012 in Hair Care, Natural Hair, News, Random
Tags: , , , , , , ,

A friend of mine sent me this article:

As I read this article, I experienced a few different emotions. As I’m sure you are aware, I am newly natural, I did my official big chop a month ago. Throughout the years of toying with the idea of going natural, one of my main concerns was workplace acceptance. Of course, in this case, it’s not about the employer accepting her decision to wear her natural hair. It is about the perception that the employer dismissed Ms. Lee for responding to a seemingly rude comment about her hair.

The commentary that led to Rhonda Lee’s firing

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).”

Rhonda’s response “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.


Okay, so her response was, in my opinion, extremely informative. Ignorance is a lack of education, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could simply educate the ignorance away? His opinion is a perception that I’ve even seen black women adopt. No? How many times have you seen a woman throw on a wig because she needed a “perm”? How many times have you seen a woman get a weave/relaxer/jheri curl etc because her natural coils weren’t silky enough? How many times have you seen a woman run in from the rain because she didn’t want her hair to “fro”.  It’s okay, I’ve said one or two of those things as well. These are learned perceptions. Even now, my family mumbles “Oh, she’ll “perm” it when she’s ready.”  I remember as a child hearing, “Oh, she’d be so pretty if you’d put a perm in her hair.” Long and silky is beautiful after all…..right?

Let me not veer off here. So, the News station responds to firing Ms. Lee on their facebook:

KTBS 3 News’ Response – “Typically this station does not comment on personnel matters, but due to the publicity and interest about this issue, the station has included the following statement. On November 28, 2012, KTBS dismissed two employees for repeated violation of the station’s written procedure. We can confirm that Rhonda Lee was one of the employees. Another employee was a white male reporter who was an eight year veteran of the station. The policy they violated provided a specific procedure for responding to viewer comments on the official KTBS Facebook page. Included is an email that was sent to all news department employees informing them of this procedure. This procedure is based on advice from national experts and commonly used by national broadcast and cable networks and local television stations across the country. Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance. If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow. Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.”

Referenced email:


I’m not saying that black pots and kettles are being tossed around, but……..okay, we’ll ignore the blatant hypocrisy. Now, was she a repeat offender? Perhaps………she did post comment to another racially driven post on the page:

In a Nov. 14 post, viewer Kenny Moreland wrote, “Not to start any trouble, because I think that the annual ‘Three Minute Smile’ is a great function and I love to see kids so happy. Am I the only one that has noticed that this year, all the kids, lets say, are people of color? This is Channel 3, not KSLA, the ‘Project Pride’ network, that might as well be part of the BET Channel. Did KTBS slip up on a news story, and owe S’port’s criminal mayor Cedric, a favor? Seems like some racism going on to me. Just saying…..”

Lee replied the next day, “I’m not sure I understand your comment, ‘…this is Channel 3 not KSLA…’ What are you trying to say?

“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 had a funny way of showing it.

“Happy holidays.–Met. Rhonda Lee”

Ms. Lee defends her response:

I was the one who brought it to their (news station’s) attention after they let it fester on the page for 6 days, but was then chastised for responding at all. I sent a screen grab to my boss via e-mail telling them that I’m ok with the anti-Rhonda commentary sometimes, but what has been posted at the time was . . . racist, and I asked them to please support me in removing the ones that didn’t encourage thoughtful, respectful and civil discourse on our FB page. I never got a reply, only punished. To this day the posts are still there.”

Lee told Journal-isms, “. . . Race has been the issue with me since I started. That much is VERY true. Weather is an older white boy business and arms have been less than open for a young black girl — a polar opposite. As reported I’ve had more problems here in the south than I have anywhere else in my 25+ years in the business. Perhaps there is a pattern, but I am a glutton for punishment (ha, ha), and I want what I deserve as any professional would so if I have to fight for it I will.”


All of this being said, was this grounds for discharge? I think that they should have been more concerned with why their PR department (assuming, that’s who would handle such matters) wouldn’t have taken such comments down. Not to pacify Ms. Lee, but for their more sensitive viewers/fans as well. So instead of addressing what is in my opinion the main problem, you fire employees who do it for you? I could understand if her comments were malice or rude, but I feel as though her comments were graceful.


Of course these are all my opinions, I would love to hear someone elses.

  1. i’m on the fence about this issue.

    while i applaud her articulate response, if she violated a company policy with termination as its consequence, what else could have happened?

    she was interviewed today by an internet radio personality. i haven’t heard the interview yet, but i found a link to the first part here:

  2. neesha says:

    Thank you so much for your response nappyheadchronicles! I can definitely see your point. The initial reports stated that this new policy had only been verbally issued in a meeting that occurred on a day that she was out of the office. Based on KTBS’s response and email evidence, it appears that that wasn’t entirely true. I did listen to the interview, she feels that she was fired because of her “ethnic hair”. She really didn’t respond to KTBS’s claims. She is very well spoken and has a ton of support behind her, I am sure that she will be very successful in the next chapter of her career.

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