Words by Smiley Team
On March 18, the US House of Representatives passed an act that would ban race-based hair discrimination in workplaces and federal programs.
“For too long, Black girls have been discriminated against and criminalized for the hair that grows on our heads and the way we move through and show up in this world,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley said on the House floor.
The CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, passed along party lines on a vote of 235-189 and is headed to the Senate for a vote.
“This bill prohibits discrimination based on a person's hair texture or hairstyle if that style or texture is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin,” The CROWN Act states.
As of January 2022, 12 US states already have their own measures banning hair-based discrimination in the workplace with Massachusetts being the most recent.
“Hair discrimination is rooted in systemic racism, and its purpose is to preserve white spaces,” the NAACP says. “Policies that prohibit natural hairstyles, like afros, braids, bantu knots, and locs, have been used to justify the removal of Black children from classrooms, and Black adults from their employment.”
The bill slates itself at ending discrimination and eradicating disseminating information relating to hair, and more specifically among Black hairstyles. For example, many Black nurses are asked to style their hair in particular ways to help with “infection control” while their white counterparts are only asked to tie up their hair. Many Black women in professional settings deal with this “gaslighting” according to the Journal of Nursing Management.
This legislation has been something more than a decade in the making, going back to a May 2010 lawsuit. The suit was filed for Chastity C. Jones, who was hired to work as a customer service representative with Catastrophe Management Solutions in Alabama. She lost her job offer after she refused a human resources request for Jones to cut her dreadlocks. But the suit failed when an Alabama court ruled that the request didn’t violate Jones’ civil rights.
The Democratic Party has a narrow majority in the Senate, making the Crown Act a legitimate possibility but it’s not fully clear which way swing voters may go.
The White House said, "The President believes that no person should be denied the ability to obtain a job, succeed in school or the workplace, secure housing, or otherwise exercise their rights based on a hair texture or hairstyle."