UPDATED: 8 a.m. ET., March 21
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs has joined the fight to protect Black Arizonians against hair discrimination.
On March 17, Hobbs signed an executive order banning discrimination in the workplace based on Black hair texture and style. Hobbs told reporters during a press conference that she wants to make sure Black workers “will be able to wear their natural hair without fear of discrimination.”
“More importantly is the message this sends to all Black women, men and children that you deserve to be comfortable wearing your natural at school and in the workplace without being perceived as unprofessional or suffering other negative consequences,” Hobbs told KAWC.
Although the move will give Black government employees more protections in the state, her order doesn’t affect private employers, nor does it prohibit schools from creating their own rules about hair for both staff and students. Still, she remains hopeful that the order is a catalyst for real change.
“I’m hopeful that this order will set an example for other employers also committed to building an Arizona for everyone,” said Hobbs. She also urged the Republican-controlled Legislature “to address these inequities for all Arizonans.”
The new provisions in Arizona are set to take effect by June 1.
Michigan lawmakers are fighting for the CROWN ACT to be implemented across the wolverine state’s schools and workplaces. On Feb. 21, Sen. Sarah Anthony of Lansing and several other representatives introduced the CROWN ACT to officials in the Michigan Senate to safeguard residents with natural and coily hair from discrimination, M-Live reported.
Anthony said she was upset by the horror stories she has heard from residents detailing their experiences with hair discrimination. Several women said they were either denied a job or refused an opportunity because they would not chemically straighten their hair. One Black male told her a troubling story of how he was denied hospital care due to his long locs because healthcare staff “didn’t want to touch his hair.”
Now, Anthony and her team are fighting tooth and nail to bring an end to race-based hair discrimination. If passed, the CROWN ACT would further amplify the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, a law that prohibits discrimination based on hair texture and race-based hairstyles, including braids, dreadlocks, twists and afros. Currently, the bill bans discrimination in areas such as education, housing and employment on the basis of race and religion.
On March. 18, the House passed the historic CROWN ACT to the Senate, a groundbreaking piece of legislation that would ban hair discrimination in all 50 states. The measure, which is also referred to as H.R. 2116, was passed with a sweeping 235 to 189 vote. It’s currently in the Senate for further consideration. As of now, the bill is only being implemented on a state level.
CROWN, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, protects individuals from discrimination over natural and protective hairstyles in the workplace, schools and other institutions. The legislation also ensures that people with unique hairstyles like locs, Bantu Knots or afros, aren’t deprived of educational and employment opportunities. New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Waston Coleman is fighting for the Senate to pass the historic legislation across the United States.
“This bill is vitally important,” Waston Coleman said during her emotional speech on the house floor. “It’s important to the young girls and the young boys who have to cut their hair in the middle of a wrestling match in front of everyone because some white referee says that your hair is inappropriate to engage in your match, ” the lawmaker maker continued on referencing the case of Andrew Johnson, a Black 16-year-old high school wrestler from New Jersey who was forced to cut off his dreadlocks in order to compete in his school’s wrestling competition.
Thankfully, 17 states have signed the CROWN ACT into law, and on July 26, Massachusetts became the 18th state to adopt the imperative bill. With the stroke of a pen, Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill into law, banning hair discrimination across the state. The decision was inspired by the story of Deanna and Mya Cook from Malden.
In 2017, the twin sisters were punished at school for wearing box braids due to the institution’s hair and makeup policy. What followed was a slew of unjustifiable consequences. At Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, the siblings were banned from participating on the track team and were not allowed to attend school events. Outraged by the decision, the community rallied together to seek justice for the girls. Now, it looks like justice has finally come for the Cook twins. The young students, who now attend college at UMass, were present at the State House as Governor Baker enacted the bill.
“We are here today because we refuse to stop, and we want to make sure that no one else feels or goes through what we went through,” Deanna told CBS News during the historic moment. Mya added, “Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t have your hair how it is. If it makes you happy and confident and beautiful, wear your hair and rock your crown!”
Rep. Steven Ultrino, a Democrat representing Malden and a sponsor of the bill, echoed a similar sentiment.
“Many across Massachusetts, particularly Black women, find themselves in positions similar to Mya and Deanna. These practices that led to discrimination claim to support professionalism, but that begs the question: what does wearing your hair in braids have to do with being professional?” Ultrino told NBC Boston.
Until the CROWN Act is adopted federally, the fight against hair discrimination will continue. Luckily, 18 states across America are paving the way for change. Here are all of the states that have signed the CROWN Act into law so far.
On July 3, 2019, California became the first state to sign the CROWN Act into law. Democratic senator Holly J. Mitchell helped push the legislation into the spotlight.
“My vision for the bill is twofold,” Mitchell told Glamour at the time. “First, by introducing the bill, I wanted to use it as an opportunity to educate my colleagues about the unique experience and opportunities of having Black hair. I didn’t want them to see it as a negative. Because of my natural hair texture, I have the unique opportunity to wear these amazing natural hairstyles.”
Only July 15, New York became the second state to adopt the bill. Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation, also known as Assembly Bill 07797, which prohibits “race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles.”
In a statement, Cuomo gushed about the historic achievement, stating:
“For much of our nation’s history, people of color — particularly women — have been marginalized and discriminated against simply because of their hairstyle or texture. By signing this bill into law, we are taking an important step toward correcting that history and ensuring people of color are protected from all forms of discrimination.”
The CROWN Act was enacted in New Jersey on December 19, 2019, one year after the incident with Andrew Johnson.
The CROWN Act was passed in Maryland on February 6, 2020. In addition to natural hairstyles, the bill also helps to protect against discrimination from taxi services, cable services, and other public accommodations.
“African American residents and residents with African ancestry are more likely to be affected by workplace discrimination and other forms of prejudice,” a press release from the county read. “While considering the bill, the County Council heard testimony from residents about the level of discrimination they suffered due to their choice to wear natural and protective hairstyles.”
On July 1, 2020, Virginia became the first Southern state to officially ban hair discrimination by adopting the CROWN Act
“It’s pretty simple—if we send children home from school because their hair looks a certain way, or otherwise ban certain hairstyles associated with a particular race—that is discrimination,” Governor Ralph Northam said in a statement, per CNN. “This is not only unacceptable and wrong; it is not what we stand for in Virginia.”
Colorado adopted the protective legislature in early March of 2020. Some lawmakers argued against the bill, citing that there were existing clauses that already protected hair discrimination. One lawmaker pointed to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The bill outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin. But some proponents of the CROWN act felt as though there were grey areas within the federal legislation that narrowly defined the meaning of race, thus allowing for natural hair discrimination to continue.
The CROWN Act went into effect on July 1, 2020, in Washington. Now, the state celebrates the huge decision every year on National CROWN Day, which falls on July 3, the same day the bill was first enacted in California. The CROWN Act was introduced byRepresentative Melanie Morgan (D-Parkland) in January 2020.
”The Black codes are still in place. And that’s my job as a representative is to go back and start dismantling those,” Rep. Morgan told King 5.
In March 2021, Governor Ned Lamont signed the CROWN Act.
In April 2021, Delaware became the ninth state to end race-based hair discrimination. Senator Darius Brown, a sponsor of the bill, worked with Dove’s CROWN coalition to pass the legislation. “I was proud to sponsor Delaware’s CROWN Act and I join thousands of Delawareans in celebrating this important new law,” said Brown in a statement after the bill was passed. “This statute is part and parcel to establishing racial equity, fairness in employment, and ending race-based discrimination. It makes clear that traits historically associated with race – specifically hair texture and styles – are included in our definition of race and cannot be used to skirt long-standing anti-discrimination statutes. Hair should never define a person, their capability, or their place on this Earth and I am proud to have played a part in building a better, fairer future for all Delawareans.”
New Mexico followed suit shortly after Delaware signed the historic bill into law. New Mexico governor Michelle Lujan Grisham extended the bill to protect individuals who wear religious headdresses and head coverings from discrimination. Clauses were also included to prevent students from being targeted due to natural hairstyles.” Workplace biases and corporate grooming policies unfairly impact Black women and people of color. Not only is this a discrimination issue but an equity issue as it has a social and economic cost,” said Senator Harold Pope at the time. “SB80 is the most inclusive legislation in the country, inspired by the CROWN Act, the goal is to end discrimination at our public schools, charter schools, and workplaces. We must have protections in place that respect all New Mexicans.”
Governor Steve Sisolak signed the CROWN Act into law with a stroke of a pen in June 2021, making Nevada the 12th state to join the fight against hair discrimination.
Thanks to Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, the CROWN Act was signed and enacted in May 2021. In a statement, Ricketts said that the bill was a way to “open doors for more legislation addressing issues with race and discrimination.”
Governor Kate Brown signed the CROWN Act into law on June 11, 2021, but the bill officially went into effect in January of this year.
“It is an act of self-love for the Black community to be able to show up at work and school in public places as ourselves,” said Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas, a chief sponsor of the bill,” according to Statesman Journal. “It’s time for people to be able to express themselves unapologetically.”
Months later, in August 2021, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the CROWN Act into law. Enacted under its formal name Senate Bill 817, the legislation protects people against hair discrimination and also prohibits schools from creating discriminatory hair policies.
“Nobody should be made to feel ‘less than’ for how they express themselves—so in Illinois, we’re making it so school uniform and dress code policies in Illinois cannot prohibit or restrict hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture,” said Pritzker in a statement. “Today we are adding to the progress we’ve already made by allowing students of color to embrace the power of their heritage rather than compromise their identity. This is yet another way Illinois is making powerful strides in transforming the culture of our schools.”
In April 2022, Maine Governor Janet Mills signed the CROWN Act into law. The bill was sponsored by Senator Mattie Daughtry.
Tennessee became the first state in the midsouth to pass the CROWN Act, which was signed into law by Governor Bill Lee on May 27, 2022.
U.S. Virgin Islands (Territory)
On April 11 The U.S. Virgin Islands enacted ‘The Virgin Islands Crown Act of 2022,’ which prohibits discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyle. The law was added as an amendment to the Virgin Islands Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment, as well as with respect to public accommodations and with respect to rental transactions, on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin.
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