Amid the natural hair movement, more and more people are headed to work and school in their natural styles. Embracing one’s natural texture is a beautiful thing; For people of color, however, this comes at a price. Whether you wear braids or locs, Black hair is being heavily policed in these environments.
If you haven’t heard of hair discrimination, we’ve compiled a list of real-life examples here:
- A high school wrestler in NJ was forced to cut his dreadlocks to compete
- A woman’s job offer was rescinded after she refused to not wear her hair in dreadlocks
- A teacher cut a 7-year-old’s hair without permission from the parent
- A high schooler was told he was not allowed to walk at graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks
At first glance, these could be interpreted as isolated incidents. When you look deeper, you can identify a string of systemic racism.
How It Started
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, made it illegal for employers to discriminate against age, race, color, sex, nationality, and religion. Things that you can change about your appearance, such as your hair, were not protected. Remember the case involving a woman’s job offer being rescinded? It was a catalyst in the movement against hair discrimination.
In this 2013 Alabama case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a racial discrimination lawsuit on behalf of the applicant who refused to change her hair. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed because “cultural practices” did not fall under the law’s umbrella of protection. The Supreme Court would not review this case (source).
The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) was created to help reverse this critical civil rights issue. Holly Mitchell (California State Senator) was the first to draft a bill that acknowledged hair as an extension of race. Local government officials noted the public’s interest and introduced versions of the law in their states. The law was first adopted in 2019 by California.
In December of 2019, Senator Cory Booker and Congressman Cedric Richmond introduced the bills in their respective chambers of Congress. The bill recognized afros, Bantu knots, braids, cornrows, dreadlocks, and twists as hairstyles that were predominantly worn by Black individuals. The CROWN Act would prohibit discrimination based on hairstyles or textures associated with a particular race or background (source).
How It Spread
In recent years, the CROWN Act has transformed into a very well-known social movement. For example, when the movie Hair Love won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, the director mentioned the CROWN Act in the acceptance speech. Additionally, Glamour magazine released a PSA (public service announcement) featuring actresses Gabrielle Union, Uzo Aduba, Marsai Martin, and Keke Palmer. In the video, anonymous stories about hair discrimination were sent in for the actresses to read out loud.
Helping to push the movement forward was Dove. In 2019, the company released the results of a survey that identified the degree of racial discrimination experienced by women based on their natural hairstyles. They found that 80% of Black women agreed that they have to change their hair from its natural state to fit in at the office. Further, Black women’s hair is over three times more likely to be seen as unprofessional. One of their key findings was that hair discrimination has a real, and measurable economic impact. The goal is to end race-based hair discrimination in every state.
Where We Are Now
As of 2021, the CROWN Act has been adopted by the following states: California, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, and New York. A full list of the states that have pre-filed the CROWN Act or haven’t filed it at all can be viewed here.
To help make hair discrimination illegal, consider signing this petition. Other avenues to act include sending a letter to your state representatives, urging them to sign this bill. A list of each state’s representatives is linked here.
At Original Moxie, we believe that no matter the texture or style, your hair has nothing to do with your ability to learn or work. Please join us in supporting this incredibly important bill.