California Just Became The First State To Ban Discrimination Based On Natural Hair

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Update: On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the CROWN Act into law alongside State Sen. Holly Mitchell, making California the first state to officially ban racial discrimination against people wearing certain natural hairstyles. The bill focuses on banning discrimination both in the workplace and in K-12 public and charter schools, places where dress codes have often limited women's ability to wear their natural hair as they please.
"My choice of how I choose to wear my hair shouldn't impact my ability to get a job, keep a job, or be promoted," Sen. Mitchell, who first introduced the bill, told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It’s about Black women or men being empowered to choose."
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This post was originally published on June 30, 2019.
The California State Assembly has voted unanimously to pass a bill that will ban racial discrimination against people wearing certain natural hairstyles, the New York Times reports. While other states have introduced updated definitions of racial discrimination to include a broader range of hair textures or styles, California is set to be the first state to outright ban discrimination based on it.
The CROWN Act — which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” — is expected to be signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom. “This is a fundamental issue of personal dignity and personal rights,” said State Sen. Holly Mitchell, who introduced the measure co-founded by Dove, to the New York Times. “This bill has truly struck a deeply personal chord with people because there is something so deeply personally offensive when you are told that your hair, in its natural state, is not acceptable in the workplace.”
The bill redefines old terminologies of race to be inclusive of hair textures and hairstyles that have historically been associated with race. Black women are 50% more likely to be sent home or to know a Black woman who has been sent home from work because of her hair, according to a study conducted by Dove. Now, insisting that a natural hair texture or style such as dreadlocks, cornrows, twists, or braids is not acceptable in the workplace will be prohibited.
One of the goals of the CROWN Act is to be able to ban employers and schools from enforcing what they claim to be race neutral grooming policies that disproportionately affect people of color. Often, the hairstyles that constitute a professional appearance skew very Eurocentric. “In a society in which hair has historically been one of many determining factors of a person’s race, and whether they were a second-class citizen, hair today remains a proxy for race,” the bill reads. “Therefore, hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination.”
Other states, such as New Jersey and New York, are in the process of introducing similar legislation. Earlier this year, New York City updated a law codifying definitions of racial discrimination to include hairstyles. This week, New Jersey introduced a proposal to do the same in the workplace, housing, and in public schools.
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