Whenever someone who doesn’t have textured hair asks me why brown and Black women with naturally curly hair are so obsessed with their hair — I quickly check them. Not only do we genuinely love to switch things up — and we can because our hair is that versatile — but to live in a time where we can confidently love, embrace, and wear our natural hair freely is worth celebrating. We’ve been conditioned for centuries to believe that our hair wasn’t enough and that in order to meet the BS Eurocentric beauty standards that were constantly being pushed on us, we had to straighten our curls. For many Black women — Afro-Latinas included — wearing our hair natural to work, to school, or to a job interview wasn’t an option. Not because we didn’t want to but because of the discrimination we were constantly enduring because of it. Well, it looks like all our resisting is finally paying off because racial discrimination based on hair texture and styles is now illegal in California!
The Senate Bill 188, also known as The Crown Act, was introduced in January by California state Sen. Holly Mitchell and approved in a 37-0 vote last week. The bill bans any form of hair discrimination based on race in the state of California. It also breaks down the connection between race and hair and how American history has “been riddled with laws and societal norms” that equate “blackness” with inferiority. Those physical traits include “dark skin,” and “kinky and curly hair.” The state of California recognizes that these biases subject people in the Black community to “separate and unequal treatment.”
The hair discrimination ban was actually passed in NYC first this past February and protects individuals of African descent from being discriminated or being targeted in schools and at the workplace, as a result of their hair. It imposes a $250,000 penalty for hair discrimination.
“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,” it states in the bill. “Therefore, hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination.”
While the ban is LONG overdue, we’re grateful that some laws are finally being passed to protect the Black community and their hair. The truth is, that hair discrimination is no joke. Black people — women and young girls especially — are often discrimination at work, in schools, and even when it comes to housing due to how they choose to wear their hair. Putting these new guidelines in place is a major and progressive step towards fighting discrimination and equality of human rights.
It’s unfortunate that we even need a law to make hair discrimination illegal but that’s just further evidence of how racist this country is. It’s an infuriating reality and what’s just as infuriating is that it took this long for this kind of legislation to be passed. It took this long for human beings to stop being discrimination for wearing the hair that naturally grows from their scalp, how they see fit. But on a brighter note, I am happy to see things finally changing. We got NY and California down — 48 more states to go! We got this!