Although this shouldn’t have to be newsworthy, you have to give it up to the House of Representatives for continuing to fight for the rights of people of color to wear their natural hair.
In a 235-189 vote, the lower chamber just passed legislation banning race-based discrimination of hairstyles and textures.
The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, which was introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), prohibits denying employment or educational opportunities to a person based on their hairstyle or texture. The law includes styles such as locs, cornrows, Bantu knots and Afros.
“Discrimination against Black hair is discrimination against Black people. I’m proud to have played a part to ensure that we end discrimination against people for how their hair grows out of their head,” Coleman said in a statement.
Rep. Coleman and other advocates of the CROWN Act are responding to the challenges faced by many people of color to comply with unfair policies in school and at work that encourage hair that is chemically or heat-straightened.
According to Dove’s 2019 CROWN Research Study, 80 percent of Black women say they have changed their hairstyle to fit in at their workplace. But unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the House has voted in favor of this legislation. The bill previously passed in 2020 before it was held up in the Senate.
As the country watches to see what happens at the federal level, the Crown Act has already been scoring major local wins as 15 states and 30 cities have passed legislation banning discrimination based on hairstyles. California was the first state to pass legislation banning discrimination against people of color for wearing natural hairstyles and textures in 2019. And on March 17, the Massachusetts House of Representatives became the newest state to pass a similar bill.
Massachusetts State Rep. Chynah Tyler stressed the importance of protecting the identity of people of color in schools and in the workplace rather than forcing them to conform. “Eighty percent of Black women are more likely to change their hair from its natural state to fit a workplace setting and changing to fit your workplace simply suppresses your creativity,” Tyler said.
The issue of hair discrimination first made the news in the state in 2017 when the Massachusetts ACLU filed a complaint against Mystic Valley Regional Charter School for disciplining students of color who came to school with hair extensions. The school argued that hair extensions were a violation of the dress code because they wanted to “foster a culture that emphasizes education rather than style, fashion or materialism.” The argument didn’t hold much weight with Black parents who pointed out that white students were not being punished for coloring their hair. The school eventually ended the policy after the state’s Attorney General ordered the school to stop the punishments saying that the ban violated racial discrimination laws.
We’ll continue to keep our eye on the CROWN Act and hope that the Senate gets it right this time.