Black people have been facing hair discrimination in the states for centuries — black women especially. To be told that the natural hair that grows from your scalp isn’t appropriate at work or even in schools is not only racist but it’s deeply traumatizing on so many levels, and it’s about times U.S. federal lawmakers recognize that. This year the state of California and NYC passed the CROWN Act, a law banning hair discrimination of any form. Now New Jersey Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker is making sure that more federal protections to prevent prejudice against hairstyles associated with black culture are being put in place.
Booker has introduced a new measure that would essentially prohibit any discrimination against hairstyles commonly worn by black people across the country.
“Discrimination against black hair is discrimination against black people,” he said after introducing the CROWN Act. “Implicit and explicit biases against natural hair are deeply ingrained in workplace norms and society at large. This is a violation of our civil rights, and it happens every day for black people across the country. You need to look no further than Gabrielle Union, who was reportedly fired because her was “too black” — a toxic dog -whistle African Americans have had to endure for far too long. No one should be harassed, punished, or fired for the beautiful hairstyles that are true to themselves and their cultural heritage.”
Actress Gabrielle Union was recently fired from being a judge on America’s Got Talent, reportedly for speaking out against racist comments being made about people of color that were contributing to an incredibly toxic work environment. One of those utterances made was that her hairstyles were deemed “too black” for the show. We hear about black women being fired from jobs, not being offered jobs, called out on job interviews, black girls suspended from school, and even bullied just for wearing their natural hair. And in many parts of the country, it’s still technically legal for them to be discriminated based on their hair, which is undeniably racist regardless of how anyone wants to put it.
Booker’s goal — along with his congressional colleagues — is to get the Crown Act to be signed into law nationwide. The CROWN Act, which was initially introduced by state Senator Holly Mitchell of California, is to expand and clarify those protections to include the natural and protectives hairstyles that are specific to black culture, including dreadlocks, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros.
To be clear, the CROWN Act would completely eliminate bias or discrimination against black people — Afro-Latinx or people of Afro-descendent included — BUT what it would do is make it harder for people to legally discriminate black people in work or educational spaces solely based on their hair, which is very much tied to race. It would put companies and schools in a position where they can no longer legally enforce Eurocentric beauty standards on brown and black people — women and girls especially — and that my friends is MAJOR. It’s the progress we’ve been desperately wanting to see for decades and it’s finally happening because of all the brown and black people that have put their foot down and resisted against these false beauty ideals that have been pushed on us for literally centuries. Even hair salons are recognizing the importance of being able to serve all women of all hair textures. I am ready to live in a world where a black woman could walk into any space and not have to worry about being shamed or discriminated against because of the color of her skin and the texture of her hair. Where she could walk into any salon and know that there will be at least a handful of stylists that can skillfully style her hair with the gentleness and care that she deserves.
“For too long, black women and girls have been told that their hair is too curly, too unprofessional, too distracting,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass), who this week introduced legislation to tackle the problem of students of color (particularly black girls facing disproportionate discipline in schools) said. “As a Congresswoman, I choose to wear my hair in twists because I want to intentionally create space for all of us to show up in the world as our authentic selves — whether it’s in the classroom, in the workplace or in the halls of Congress. I am proud to support the CROWN Act, which is a bold step towards ensuring that people can stand in their truth while removing the narrative that black people should show up as anything other than who they are.”