After years of being called “unprofessional,” black students and employees are now free to wear their natural hair however they please after a bill passed by California lawmakers.
What We Know:
- There have been various situations where black people have been discriminated against because of their hair. Employees have been told that their hair is unprofessional and inappropriate for the work place. Students have been suspended from school for wearing protective hairstyles, while others had to cut their hair off completely. Luckily, a new bill in California will ensure these situations are a thing of the past.
- The fact that this bill had to be created in the first place sends a message of its own. Professionalism has been defined by European standards and whatever wasn’t that, wasn’t right. “The history of our nation is riddled with laws and societal norms that equated ‘blackness,’ and the associated physical traits, for example dark skin, kinky and curly hair to a badge of inferiority,” the bill notes. The bill will be known as the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) and was passed on Thursday.
- The Crown Act contends that the definition of race will include, “traits historically associated with race,” such as hair texture and “protective styles.” Senator Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, realized this bill has been a long time coming after she reflected on specific hair discrimination situations. For example, the New Jersey student wrestler who had to either cut his hair off to compete or forfeit the match. Or the story of Chasity Jones, a black woman who lost a job in Alabama after refusing to cut her dreadlocks off. Mitchell told NPR, “This clearly is a law whose time has come.”
- California’s passing of this bill has inspired other states to follow the same path. New York and New Jersey have both proposed a similar bill. In February, New York City actually created a policy to protect common black hairstyles such as cornrows, afros and fades. New York’s Commission on Human Rights said,”black hairstyles are protected racial characteristics under the [New York City Human Rights Law] because they are an inherent part of Black identity.”
The CROWN Act was passed 69 to 0 in the state senate and is on its way to the governor to be signed.