California Bill Bans Discrimination Based On Hairstyles

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Jessica Townsend, Editor

The California State Senate recently passed the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair). This forbids schools and workplaces from implementing dress codes that place restriction on “braids, twists, or other natural hair styles.” (cnn)

Hairstyles deemed professional are often based on Eurocentric standards. The bill states, “workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including Afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter black applicants and burden or punish black employees than any other.” Democrat Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, who introduced the bill, says any policy that excludes her, “not because of my capacity or my capabilities or my experience, but because of my hairstyle choice,” is in desperate need of reform.

Many African Americans have been terminated from their jobs or sent home from school due to their hairstyles. Last year, high school athlete, Andrew Johnson, was the topic of discussion after he was forced to choose between cutting off his dreadlocks or forfeiting a wrestling match. Another example is from last winter, when a six year old in Texas was told to to cut off this locks before returning to school. His mother posted the letter from the school on Twitter and asked, “How does his hair affect his ability to learn?” (marketwatch) Noliwe Rooks, professor of African studies at Cornell University, says that “hair is connected to civil rights, and needs to be protected.” (usatoday)

So far, California and New York are the only states to have passed a law protecting natural hair from discrimination.