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Politics & Government

Lawmakers look at bill banning discrimination based on natural hair styles

natural_hair_office.jpg
Christina Morillo
/
Women of Color in Tech

State lawmakers are considering a bill banning discrimination against people of color for wearing their natural hair styles.

 

State senators look to have Delaware join at least 7 other states in passing the CROWN or Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act.

It would outlaw discriminating against people for wearing their natural hair styles.

 

Afiya Mbilishakais a clinical psychologist and hairstylist that uses hair as an entry point into mental health services.

 

She says Black hair care is psychologically important because of the history of hair in Black culture.

 

“In traditional African societies, hair represented a complex language system to communicate pride, health, wealth and rights of passage," Mbilishaka says. "However, through acts of dehumanization to enslaved Africans, European slave masters desecrated the crowns of our African ancestors by labeling their hair as fur, or wool.”

 

A survey by the CROWN coalition and Dove found 80 percent of Black women are more likely to change their natural hair to conform to social norms or expectations at the workplace.

 

Most public comment during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing supported the bill. Scott Kidner, president of the First State Military Academy board, was concerned it would prevent the academy or JROTC programs from enforcing the military standard for hairstyles.

 

Adjoa Asamoahhelped develop the nationwide strategy for passing the CROWN Act. She says Black people are often treated differently for wearing their natural hair or a traditional hair style.

 

“There is a long-standing history of problematic practice of racial discrimination based on hair in the United States," she says. "This prevalent form of discrimination includes being fired, passed over for promotions, and even having offers of employment rescinded.”

California was the first state to pass the CROWN act back in 2019, and 6 other states have since followed suit. A little more than a dozen other state legislatures have brought up a similar bill as well.

 

The CROWN coalition is also pushing for a federal law. The CROWN Act passed in the House of Representatives last year, but failed to make it through the Senate.

 

The committee released the bill to Senate floor Wednesday, and will take the public’s consideration into account if any changes are to be made.

Roman Battaglia a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.