On Nov. 14, a Facebook commenter by the name of Kenny Moreland criticized KTBS 3-TV’s annual “Three Minute Smile” segment, which gives children a 3-minute shopping spree through a local Walmart. Moreland was not pleased that the past winners were children of color. Below is his comment and Lee’s response:
A month earlier, another Facebook commenter, Emmitt Vascocu, wrote directly about Lee, or his words, “the black lady that does the news.” He mentioned that she needed to wear a wig, saying that her natural hair is not fit for TV.
Lee responded with much more grace and dignity than most. But that apparently was not good enough for the station. The 25-year-veteran told Journal-isms that she notified the station of Vascocu’s offensive comments, but they remained live. And, for commenting, she was apparently fired. The station released a statement explaining Lee’s dismissal:
Lee told CNN’s Soledad O’Brian that she was not aware of the company’s social media policy and was never warned about any unsatisfactory actions. She also said that there is no hard copy of the policy.
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It seems that Lee was punished for discussing race rather than the commenter being banned for his racist comments. It is a sad, yet accurate reminder of how being comfortable with our Blackness is a symbol of inferiority to others, namely the commenters who attacked her on Facebook. We can look Black but not too Black, as was the case for Lee. Though she told CNN this is not the first time her hair has threatened her job security.
Before her working with KTBS, Lee filed a discrimination lawsuit against Austin, Texas, ABC affiliate KXAN over what she said were repeated racially insensitive comments about her race by staff. Her battles with race extend to the west coast as well.
“I’ve even had a news director once say that my hair was too aggressive for Sacramento, so I wasn’t even allowed to interview at that point” Lee told CNN. “It’s been an interesting journey with my hair.”
If her latest fiasco is any indicator, it appears that her hair journey–and that of other Black women around the nation–is far from over.