Louisiana meteorologist Rhonda Lee, formerly of KTBS news, was fired after responding to viewer comments on the network’s Facebook page. Lee’s social media response was a reply to comments from a viewer who took issue with her short hair. Lee interpreted the comments as being racially motivated, and responded saying that she is “proud of her African-American ancestry which includes [her] hair.”
KTBS News Director Randy Bain said that Lee was let go for “repeatedly violating” a policy that prohibits staff from interacting with the network’s social media accounts. Lee argues that she felt the need to respond to the online comments because “the station didn’t do anything.” In her opinion, allowing the criticisms of her hair to stay up unanswered would be equivalent to condoning those harsh words.
Lee is the latest in a long line of African-American women who have faced commentary about their natural hairstyles. Notably, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry and Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas addressed their hairstyles. Should a public figure’s hair ever be a topic of conversation or criticism? How does race figure into this? What is the best way to respond to this kind of commentary? When is social media the right platform for these discussions?
Rhonda Lee, former meteorologist with ABC affiliate KTBS news in Shreveport, Louisiana