Death to the Dumbasses! Reporter gets her due

A good while back I wrote a Dumbass Diaries piece the meteorologist who was fired for defending her natural hair. Because of social media “policy” (that to my knowledge KTBS-TV has yet to produce a tangible copy of), she was let go because of a response to a viewer post that said she “looked like a cancer patient.”

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Well, the young lady in question, Ms. Rhonda Lee, seems to have landed on her feet, securing a job with WeatherNation. Good to know there’s somebody out there that prizes what’s IN her head and celebrates what’s ON her head as a bonus.

WeatherNation, you can go to the head of the class!

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Dumbass Diaries part 14

This one might actually qualify to spark off a “Pissed Off Princess” series….

Kid commercials tend to be cute–the kid will ask a quasi-serious question and then take some action based in child logic that makes the audience laugh. So a young girl asking her mother about the heart health nutritional benefit of a cereal and then laying said cereal on her dad’s chest to “help” should garner a collective “Aw!” from the viewing audience, right?

Nope.

Here’s why:

Yes, boys and girls–Cheerios had the unmitigated gall to portray an interracial family. And the Internet exploded with trolls and bigots. Commentary covering everything from aspersions on Black fathers to “references to Nazis, ‘troglodytes,’ and ‘racial genocide'” were spewed all over YouTube until the comments section was shut down. Not like that stopped this tide of wretchedness else on the Web…one faceless dumbass offered this priceless gem:

“These videos encourage people to seek partners outside their racial group. It already happens too much … for comfort. I shall eat Toasted Oats instead.”

Oh really now?

And as if the fact that there is actually controversy surrounding this ad isn’t bad enough, I have had two sad and sickening realizations:

1) As much as I’d like to believe that it’s only old, crusty, dyed-in-the-wool racist hatemongers, I fear that the majority of those posting this vitriol are teenaged Internet trolls who have grown up in a multicultural world and show know better.

2) I also fear that any of the following scenarios would have been more acceptable and less comment-provoking:

  • If it was a white couple raising this biracial child
  • If the husband had been white and the wife black
  • If the little girl was being raised by a gay couple

With all of the rapes, murders, corruption, adultery, etc. being portrayed on television in grisly, gruesome detail and very few people batting an eye, THIS is what gets America’s underwear in a knot? A commercial with a whole family unit talking about cereal? Seriously?!?

The horror.

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Related links:

Code Switch – NPR: If This Cute Cheerios Ad Causes Drama, What Won’t?
AdWeek:
It’s 2013, and People Are Still Getting Worked Up About Interracial Couples in Ads

Slate: Cheerios Ad Brings Out the Racists

Dumbass Diaries part 13

Weatherperson Rhonda Lee

Weatherperson Rhonda Lee

This might also qualify as the beginning of the Pissed-Off Princess series.

You might recall my documenting my natural hair journey back in October. While I am not fully comfortable with all of the style possibilities on myself, I have seen other women wear them fabulously. Such is the case for weather reporter Rhonda Lee. Unlike myself, being perfectly content to work behind the scenes in the television industry as I contend with this hair, Ms. Lee is right out in front of the camera wearing a close-cropped cut (known as a teeny-weeny Afro or a TWA).

There is at least one viewer who did not agree with her standard of beauty, and he felt compelled to comment on the station’s Facebook page:

    -“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).”

Ms. Lee chose to respond to the “well-meaning” viewer with the following:

    “Hello Emmitt–I am the ‘black lady’ to whom 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.”

A very straightforward, polite response to a very insulting comment. Her reward? She was fired.

Now several months ago, when Jennifer Livingston was ridiculed by a viewer for being overweight, she came out ON THE AIR with a five-minute commentary…and was lauded as a heroine and a champion against bullying as the video went viral. The story was aired on many local and national news outlets, and she was even invited to be interviewed on Good Morning America. So if Ms. Livingston standing up for her image is to be applauded, why then was Ms. Lee fired for doing the same thing? It’s not OK to tell a television news personality that they’re fat, but it IS OK to say a perfectly healthy, attractive, well-groomed woman looks like a cancer patient and needs to wear a wig? And what if she HAD been a cancer patient? What does the length (or presence) of hair on her head have to do with her skills as a weatherperson? I’m pretty sure it was not her hair taking notes and passing tests and earning that meteorology degree.

Frankly, I’m more insulted by Ms. Livingston’s situation being classified as bullying. Don’t get it twisted: the “concerned viewer” was as wrong as two left shoe for calling her fat–in fact, I believe the word used was OBESE. And while she looks like she may be over her optimum weight, all I saw was a beautiful woman who was quite capable at doing her job. That being said, I take issue with her comparing those viewer remarks to bullying. Yes, they were certainly insulting, sexist and condescending–but I can’t agree with them being lumped into the bully pile. If anyone was bullied, it was Ms. Lee–and sadly, THAT was by her own employers.

I spent a few good years up in Central Louisiana, and left a lot of family and good friends I would like to visit. You can be sure when I visit, that station will NOT be on my list of things to watch. Not even if it’s exclusive coverage of the Second Coming.

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Black people….everything is NOT about you…….

Yeah, I said it.

Let me start off by making this, as Rick James would put it, publicly clear: I’m Black. Don’t let the name fool you. I am proud to be Black and while I am a bit idealistic, I am not so foolish as to not know that racism is still alive and rampant in our society. And I will vigorously fight against it where it exists—but we as a people get fired up over some stupid stuff.

All of it tends to revolve around our image—how we are seen, how we are portrayed, how we see ourselves and how others see us. And three glaringly visible examples presented themselves in the course of the first week of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.

Photo by: Mitchell Haaseth/NBC

Gabrielle Douglas’s hair
A highly talented 16 year old gymnast took her talents to the XXX (that’s 30th) Olympic Games and helped elevate her team to the gold medal podium, the first for the USA women’s gymnastics team since 1996 and the Magnificent Seven. Not satisfied by being only the second African-American (or black woman of any nationality, to my knowledge) to wear Olympic Gold, she performed at such a high caliber to snag an individual gold medal as an all-around gymnast—the fourth in America’s history at the Games, but the first of color EVER. With these major accomplishments out in the atmosphere, you would think the social media airwaves would be abuzz with this major feat and a sense of pride as a community. And to some degree, there were a lot of congratulatory posts and tweets. But an unnecessarily large number of them were about….wait for it….Gabrielle Douglas’s hair. TWO gold medals, history made and all people could do was complain that her hair wasn’t on point.

Now I did notice her hair at the beginning of the rounds, but my only passing thought about it was whether or not it met competitive standards. I’m not too familiar with gymnastics protocol (and it’s been a long while since I’ve actively watched, so a lot of the scoring particulars have changed as well), but I do know in dance competitions the team is usually encouraged, if not required, to have everyone with the same neat, uniform hairstyle—usually a bun or ponytail if the length of hair permits. I know certain judges in dance can be persnickety if one hair falls out of place, and can deduct points from performance scores on something that minute. So my concern was that for all of the talent and skill Gabby was displaying, the ends of her ponytail sticking askew would cost her unnecessarily. But as I continued to watch I noticed many other gymnasts’ style being less than perfect from all of the tumbling, flipping and balancing, and the coaches didn’t seem concerned in the least—so I put it out of my mind and watched the routines with awe and amazement.

Clearly, as many of the post-uproar memes have stated, Gabby was more concerned with gold medals than gold highlights. Gymnastics is WORK. When you are doing physical activity of that intense a nature, you are going to sweat, your hair is not going to stay in place, and you are not going to look model perfect. But guess what? You get to focus on the job at hand. Not to mention, when you’ve finished putting in the work and achieving your goals, when you’ve got some down time, you get to relax and enjoy. And, if you want to, go to the salon.

The “Flying Squirrel” nickname
Apparently animal nicknames are taboo (so all of you with babies you call Mutt or Chipmunk need to stop now—and don’t even think about greeting your homeboys with a friendly “dawg”)—Gabby’s coaches gave her the nickname “flying squirrel” because she is small, nimble and quick like the aforementioned critter. However, being identified with a rodent seems to sit badly with folks from comedienne Marsha Warfield to former gymnast/commentator Dominique Dawes, who refused to use that particular moniker. Commentators had no trouble labeling Shaun White as the “Flying Tomato” because of his red hair—though the main reason that name died is because Shaun himself didn’t like it and squashed it himself. Gabby has yet to complain about it…but some claim that it’s still demeaning and it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t mind the name. This reminds me of the communication breakdown in an episode of the Ice Cube social experiment Black. White. In an effort to communicate their impressions of each other, the wife of the white family used the word “creature” in the description of the black wife—who proceeded to take great offense, thinking the other woman was referencing the ghouls of the “Creature Feature” horror movies, rather that what she really meant.

–anything created, whether animate or inanimate.
–person; human being: She is a charming creature. The driver of a bus is sometimes an irritable creature.
–an animate being.

It saddens me that there has been so much antagonistic language and personifications between races and cultures that we can’t determine the true intentions behind what others are trying to say.

“Monkeygate” (the ill-timed NBC promo)
Alright, then is no question that this was incredibly bad timing and has all the appearances of racist commentary. It’s very easy to raise an eyebrow, but calling it intentional is reaching a bit. As any network will do when it has a nearly guaranteed mega-audience and a whole slate of new shows to pitch, they will do their best to come up with promos that tie in with the theme of the prevailing broadcast. We’ve seen this in promotions during the Superbowl and the World Series, so similar spots during the two-week run of The Olympics should be no surprise. One of the shows being pitched is called Animal Practice, a new sitcom about a veterinary practice that has some trained animals in the cast. The series of promos revolved around the animals daydreaming about being Olympic athletes and then showing them and their human cohorts watching the events on television and discussing it. The unintentionally offending promo centered around gymnastics—and featured a monkey performing on the still rings. A pretty benign spot on its own; however, this spot played as the first element of the break immediately following Gabby Douglas’s win in the individual all-around competition. Having seen quite a few portrayals of black people as monkeys, I can understand the initial suspicions. But the ad didn’t even mention Gabby—not one gym leotard, no makeup or wigs on the monkey to make it look female, nothing of any nature to equate the monkey to a specific human being. But a lot of people have accused NBC of intentionally programming the spot there and trying to diminish Gabby’s accomplishments. Well, they’re half-right: NBC probably did intentionally place that promo in that spot. THREE DAYS BEFORE. Because it was GYMNASTIC-THEMED. Who knew for certain several days before the event which gymnast was going to take the gold medal three days in advance? All of the gymnasts present were considered the best their respective countries had to offer, so it could have been any one of the young ladies on the floor. Hell, most of the projections for American hopes were pinned on McKayla Maroney. I have the feeling that I wouldn’t even be talking about this had she, or either of the Russian medalists, had gotten gold instead. But this PC-hypersensitive culture that has everybody on eggshells about what they say has people so agitated to the point where NBC HAD to issue an apology just to quell the uproar—over a spot that had been running in the gymnastics broadcast for days.

Now I realize that I just made a whole bunch of people mad with everything I just said. Good. Stay mad. But make sure you direct that anger somewhere positive. Direct it at the lack of rehabilitation programs for our incarcerated black men. Direct it at the continued denigration of women, particularly that asinine division between light-skinned and dark-skinned black women that is most rampant in our own community. Direct it at the quiet installation of roadblocks to our ease of ability to vote—and a lot of our community’s apathy towards voting and political involvement. Hell, direct it at the lack of knowledge and discernment some of our young people possess, and the lack of pride and respect THEY have for themselves.

But spending perfectly good outrage on the Hangover monkey in a spot nobody noticed before or will remember in a few months….I’m sure there’s a better outlet than that you can find to focus your indignation.

(I realize this is perfect fodder for a “Dumbass Diaries” entry, but I don’t want to be accused of called my people jackasses. It might come off wrong.)

Dumbass Diaries part 9

You’ve heard of driving while black, right? Well here’s babysitting while white.

Now, I can understand being vigilant about possible child abduction or abuse, but if you’ve been given contact information to corroborate the story given, CHECK IT OUT. But even that’s not the issue….the EXTREME use of force. NINE police cars? I’ve seen murders with smaller responses. And no apologies to the man or the child….that baby will be scarred for life behind the police for so many more reasons than she ever needed to.

Dumbass Diaries part 7

Dumbassery is dumbassery…even when it’s among my own people

Author and artist Faith Ringgold has managed to tick off a New York mother with her children’s book, Counting to Tar Beach. I know that certain images of black folks have been perpetuated ad naseum, and have had many a progressive non-Black person come under fire for displaying them as a “joke” (various Twitpics of white kids in costume with blackface or brownface and wild Afros come to mind), but often in our zeal to cry “Hidden (or Blatant) Racism” we tend to forget to apply context. The book in question is a sequel to Ringgold’s award-winning Tar Beach, the title references the blacktop roof the family “escapes” to enjoy an outing in the Harlem summer…in 1939. Yeah, yeah….watermelon, fried chicken and cornbread is often the diet in Black oriented movies to an exaggerated degree, and I get that…but, and let me say it loudly and clearly so that it’s understood, IT’S HARLEM IN NINETEEN-FREAKING-THIRTY-NINE. What were they supposed to picnic with, sushi and Evian?

I applaud my people’s activism and vigilance to continuing to uplift our image….but c’mon, son! You know the phrase, “Those who refuse to learn their history are doomed to repeat it”? This is a part of our history–nobody is lying about this, this is the stuff we ate regularly. And, I might add *pssst* asphalt is made from tar. Has nothing to do with anybody’s skin color or anything like that. I would think we have enough problems as a people without picking each other apart for perceived slights and slurs.