On January 1, 2020, California became the first U.S. state to ban discrimination against natural hair. New York and New Jersey quickly followed, and now two dozen other states and municipalities are considering similar legislation, CNN reports.
Hair-based discrimination has been an issue for decades but it re-emerged in December 2018, when a New Jersey school district ordered a black high school wrestler to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit a match.
Then, in 2019, DeAndre Arnold was suspended from his Texas high school and told he may be banned from graduation if he kept his dreadlocks, which he has been growing since seventh grade.
These stories inspired the CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act, which was first signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in July 2019 and went into effect in the state in 2020.
The statute makes it illegal to enforce policies against afros, braids, twists, and locs.
Now that it has been signed into law in select states, it’s quickly gaining momentum across the country.
Earlier this month and in the span of a week, three other states (Colorado, Washington, and Minnesota) have introduced or advanced similar bills.
Arnold’s home state of Texas may also pass legislation, with lawmakers announcing a bill for the 2021 legislative session.
The increase in activity follows Matthew A. Cherry’s Oscar win for the short film “Hair Love”, which features a black father learning to do his daughter’s hair.
Cherry used his acceptance speech to draw attention to the CROWN Act.
“‘Hair Love’ was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation, we wanted to normalize black hair and there’s a very important issue out there, the CROWN Act,” he said.
“If we can help get this passed in all 50 states it will help stories like Deandre Arnold’s … stop to happen.”
Hair discrimination = racism
The CROWN Act was first introduced by Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Holly Mitchell in 2019, who said the law is about “inclusion, pride, and choice.”
“This law protects the right of Black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms,” Sen. Mitchell said in a statement.
“I am so excited to see the culture change that will ensue from the law.”
Minnesota State Representative Rena Moran (DFL), who is expected to share her personal story at a committee hearing this week, said the legislation introduced in her home state echoes the CROWN Act, and she hopes it will help make the “invisible, visible.”
“I have worn braids before but I have not worn braids in session. Just so used to … conforming to the Eurocentric norms,” she told NBC News affiliate Kare 11.
“It may be difficult to see and believe that here in Minnesota discrimination is real. I think often when you are not being seen as different or discriminated against because of your hair you do not know it is a problem.”
For the latest updates on state developments, visit thecrownact.com.