Go-Jamaica
Gleaner/Power 106 News
UK VOICE: Black TV presenter fired for defending her hair

A black TV presenter claims she was fired from her job after asking her bosses to investigate racially-motivated remarks made about her on the station's Facebook page.

KTBS-TV's Rhonda Lee, who hit back when a viewer said her short Afro hair resembled that of a cancer patient, reported the exchange to her bosses, but was given her marching orders.

She claims her employers said she had "violated" the station's policy in her response.

The viewer identified as Emmitt Vascocu, took to the social networking site and 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."

Iím not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still itís not something myself that I think looks good on televison, he wrote.

"What about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.Ē

Lee, who presents the weather on the US news station, responded on October 1, writing: - '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,' she continued.

"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.'

She pointed out that her choice displayed the variety of the American culture and being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave her is her contribution to society.

She also mentioned that she feels like a role model to little girls and boys, by refusing to conform.

She concluded her response with a polite 'Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.'

However, when Lee presented Vascocu's distressing post to station bosses at KTBS-TV, she found herself out of work the following week.

She told Journal-isms: "I was the one who brought it to their attention after they let it fester on the page for six days, but was then chastised for responding at all.

Lee said she sent a screen grab to her boss via e-mail telling them that she was ok with the anti-Rhonda commentary sometimes, but what has been posted at the time was...racist, and asked them to please support her in removing the ones that didn't encourage thoughtful, respectful and civil discourse on the FB page.

'I never got a reply, only punished. To this day the posts are still there.'

The 37-year-old claims that she was called into a meeting with her news director days after the confrontation and told that "there were a few unclear things in the policy" that she should be aware of.

They informed her that she would be called into a meeting with the station's general manager to discuss further the following week.

Instead, she said there was no meeting and claims she was unceremoniously fired. She has since had a meeting with the stations bosses, but has not been reinstated even though the policy she allegedly "violated" was not written down.
She said: "So when I asked what rule did I break, there isn't anything to point to."

Adding: "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 plus years in the business. Perhaps there is a pattern, but I want what I deserve as any professional would so if I have to fight for it I will."

Like our new Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/gleanerjamaica

Follow us on Twitter http://twitter.com/JamaicaGleaner

editorial@gleanerjm.com