For some terrible reason, female local news reporters seem to receive a disproportionate share of bullies' attention. They're shamed for their clothes, their voices, their bodies, and, in some cases, their natural hair. Corallys Ortiz, a meteorologist at WBBJ network in Jackson, Tennessee, recently experienced the latter, and took to Facebook earlier this week to pen a graceful, powerful response, the Jackson Sun reports.
The post includes a video in which Ortiz, flanked by photos of her wearing her hair both straightened and in its natural curly Afro state, listens to a voicemail left on her phone by a viewer. "Please don't wear your hair like that anymore. It just doesn't look good at all. Please don't. Change it back to something more normal," the caller says, before adding a somewhat garbled line that clearly sounds, to Ortiz and many other commenters on the post, like an incredibly offensive racial slur. "Something what looking?" an appalled Ortiz asks the camera before replaying the message.
In her accompanying post, Ortiz begins by noting that due to her "racially ambiguous" Caribbean roots, it's not uncommon for people to ask her about her ethnicity. "I always appreciated the genuine curiosity that came from some people whenever they ask me these questions," she wrote. "One thing that has always been a strong part of my identity is my hair. About 90 percent of the time I wear it straight. It's the way I was accustomed to [wearing] it growing up. The last few years I've grown to manage and love wearing it in its natural state, the big curly 'fro or 'poof' as I call it. No, it's not a wig like some people have thought, but because of my racially ambiguous background my hair texture itself is versatile, meaning I can wear it and style it many ways."
Ortiz went on to describe the discriminatory "standards" that have long plagued women of color in the TV industry, forcing them to style their hair in a way that aligns with "white beauty standards." The journalist, who wrote that she usually straightens her hair, noted that these standards have begun to loosen only very recently, allowing women to wear their hair in more natural styles. Even so, natural hair is still often the target of racist shaming, as Ortiz's seemed to be in that phone call. A 2016 study done by the Perception Institute found that "the majority of participants, regardless of race, show implicit bias against black women’s textured hair." So clearly, we all have a long way to go when it comes to fully embracing Afro-textured hair.
"I've received so much positive feedback from viewers about the brief hair change I have going on and how they enjoy seeing my curly hair. Many people appreciate the representation I've given to those wanting to wear their hair in their natural state. Unfortunately, working in the TV industry there is always going to be criticism as well," she wrote. "In my case early Sunday night, a viewer who goes by Donna felt that my hair wasn't up to 'her standards.' The following video just reflects back to everything I just said about criticism and dealing with what is considered 'cultural or racial ignorance.' Racism for short. It is very clear you can hear what she says and it's something I don't condone."
She ended with an important reminder: "I hope a post like this brings to light the constant criticism a person of color might face just for being themselves. I hope it serves as a lesson to people like Donna and to remind her that we are living in a new century, in nation filled with people of different backgrounds, cultures, ideals, colors, shapes and sizes."
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