Five states ban hair discrimination

BrenShavia Jordan | Broadcast Reporter

In 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom passed the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act prohibiting race-based hair discrimination. California was the first state to make hair discrimination illegal; both New York and New Jersey shortly introduced the same legislature.

The bill protects traits associated with hair texture and hairstyles in K-12 schools and the workplace. Statutory protection is extended under the Fair Employment and Housing Act of 1959 (FEHA) and the California Education Code.

Last week, Virginia and Colorado signed the CROWN Act making them the fourth and fifth states fighting hair discrimination.

Students on Baylor’s campus offered their thoughts toward the recent law and their hopes as it continues to expand.

KJ Burkley, a Texas junior, shared how this law made him feel.

“They care about people’s identity, and they care about something that means a lot to employers. The fact they were able to pass a law to protect part of their identity is really cool,” Burkley said.

Kolbie Sherrell, an Allen junior, talked about the work that goes into styling African American hairstyles.

“It’s such a personal preference on how you want to wear your hair. I think that’s why it’s so beautiful with black girls being able to wear your hair braided, twisted, down [or] straight. A lot of [different] styles, but they take a lot of work,” Sherrell said.

According to the CROWN Research Study, to fit social norms and expectations, a black woman is 80% more likely to change her natural hair. In addition, black women are 50% more likely to be sent home from work because of their hair.

Adrianna Geegan, a Houston senior, shared her thoughts on employee’s hairstyle decisions.

“I know it is a big thing to decide how to wear your hair to an interview, or how to wear your hair to work because you are afraid of people judging you or commenting unnecessary comments on your hair … that has nothing to do with your capabilities of working in a workplace,” Geegan said.

More than 20 states are considering passing similar legislation with pre-filed, filed or intend to introduce their own bills toward hair discrimination, and local students are hoping Texas becomes one of them.

Jada Holliday, a sophomore from Broken Arrow, Okla. said these laws are the starting point to stop prejudice that blacks encounter because of their hair.

“Small things like those laws are going to be the things that overturn the racism that has been institutionalized over the years,” Holliday said.

For more information or to sign the petition for more states to join, visit The Crown Act.