The CROWN Act movement seeks to protect Black people from racial discrimination based on hairstyles.
The CROWN Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” is a law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists, or bantu knots.
First introduced in California in January 2019 and signed into law on July 3, 2019, the inaugural CROWN Act expanded the definition of race in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Code, to ensure protection in workplaces and in K-12 public and charter schools. Since then, The CROWN Act has galvanized support from federal and state legislators in the movement to end hair discrimination nationwide.
The CROWN Act recently passed into law in several jurisdictions, including New Jersey; New York; Virginia; Montgomery County, Maryland; Cincinnati; Colorado; California and Washington state. Similar statewide legislation has also been introduced in Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. To date, legislators in more than 20 states are considering the CROWN Act and have either filed, pre-filed, or formally stated an intention to introduce their own bills targeting hair discrimination.
The federal legislation that was introduced in both chambers of Congress late last year clarifies that discrimination based on natural or protective hairstyles is a prohibited form of race discrimination, including in housing, workplaces and places of public accommodation like restaurants and theaters – but that bill hasn’t seen much activity since it was introduced.
As part of the CROWN Act campaign in Louisiana, Nia Weeks – the executive director of Citizen SHE United (citizensheunited.com), an organization that empowers Black women voters – is putting together a video series featuring 120 images of Black women and girls who are celebrating the beauty of their hair. The SPLC Action Fund is supporting Weeks’ organization in pushing for the CROWN Act there.
Understanding that Black women are not a monolith, with a variety of issues that concern them, Weeks and other leaders in her organization saw that hair was a uniting issue for Black women, she said.
The median income for Black women is 21% less than that of white women, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research has noted. And Black women often feel pressure to look more white to appear more acceptable for jobs or other opportunities. But making their hair look more like a white woman’s requires the use of tools and chemicals that are harmful to their bodies and reproductive systems, Weeks said.
“Hair is actually central to economic equity,” she said. “That’s why we decided to use it as an organizational tool. It impacts every aspect of our lives and our beings and how we’re able to navigate.”
Natural hairstyles should be celebrated, not discouraged.
For more information, please visit www.thecrownact.com