In March, Virginia became the fourth state to pass The Crown Act, which prohibits discrimination against natural hair in schools and workplaces. While California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Colorado, and Washington have now signed the act into law this year, Virginia is officially the first southern state in America to end this discriminatory practice, marking a significant step forward that many hope will have a ripple effect.
The legislation, which officially goes into effect 1st July, makes it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace for their choice of natural hairstyle, including Afros, curls, or locs. "A person's hair is a core part of their identity," said Delegate Delores McQuinn, who sponsored the bill. "Nobody deserves to be discriminated against simply due to the hair type they were born with."
The Crown Act, which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, garnered nationwide attention in February after director Matthew A. Cherry won an Oscar for his film Hair Love. This short film tells the story of a Black father learning to style his daughter's natural hair. Cherry invited DeAndre Arnold, a Texas high school student who was banned from his graduation and prom for wearing locs, to the Oscars ceremony as his guest. "There's a very important issue out there, The CROWN Act, and we can help to get this passed in all 50 states, which will help stories like DeAndre Arnold's to stop happening," Cherry said in his Oscars acceptance speech. The Crown Act has not yet been filed in Arnold's home state of Texas, though lawmakers are considering it.
While two other nearby states, including Tennessee and Georgia, have pre-filed The Crown Act, it has not yet passed in another Southern jurisdiction. Virginia's law goes into effect at a pivotal time as movements across the country grow to fight systemic racism and police brutality. Ending natural hair discrimination against Black people is a small, yet vital part of dismantling many other racist systems.