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Black lawmakers reintroduce federal CROWN Act legislation to ban hair discrimination

A number of Democratic lawmakers have reintroduced the CROWN Act, legislation that would ban discrimination based on one's hairstyle or hair texture. Here, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs Crown Act legislation on June 15, 2023 in Lansing, Mich. that will outlaw race-based hairstyle discrimination in workplaces and schools.
Joey Cappelletti
/
AP
A number of Democratic lawmakers have reintroduced the CROWN Act, legislation that would ban discrimination based on one's hairstyle or hair texture. Here, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs Crown Act legislation on June 15, 2023 in Lansing, Mich. that will outlaw race-based hairstyle discrimination in workplaces and schools.

A host of Black Democratic lawmakers reintroduced legislation Wednesday that would ban discrimination against a person's hairstyle or hair texture.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-N.J., led a group of 84 lawmakers in sponsoring the reintroduction of HR 8191, or the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill — which was previously passed in the House in 2019 and 2022, but blocked in the Senate — aims to end race-based hair discrimination in schools and workplaces for Black Americans and other communities of color.

If signed into law, the act would prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle or hair texture that is coiled or tightly curled — including locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, Afros or any other hairstyle that is commonly associated with a race or national origin.

Watson Coleman said during a Wednesday news conference that lawmakers were introducing the bill again because "no worker, no student, no person should ever face discrimination because of how their hair grows out of their heads."

"We can't control the texture of our hair any way that we can control the color of our skin," Watson Coleman said. "... and yet, Black Americans routinely face discrimination simply because of the way their hair looks."

Adjoa B. Asamoah, a scholar and strategist leading the nationwide CROWN Act movement, told reporters Wednesday that "race-neutral" grooming policies reinforce Eurocentric standards of beauty, which she says are "problematic."

"There is a longstanding history of racial discrimination against natural hair and protective styles in the workplace, schools, and society at large," Asamoah said.

"...I have worked tirelessly to pass the CROWN Act and shift culture to mitigate the physical, psychological, and economic harm caused by race-based hair discrimination," she added.

California was the first state to sign the act into law back in 2019, and has since been joined by 24 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Texas is the latest state to implement a version of the law. The legislation has been proposed in 20 additional states and Washington, D.C.

Senate Republicans have previously blocked attempts at passing the bill; in 2022, the legislation didn't get enough support from Republicans to override a filibuster from Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul.

News of the reintroduction of the CROWN Act comes months after the ongoing battle of Darryl George, a Black high school student in Texas who was suspended for more than a month for wearing a natural hairstyle, was brought into the national spotlight.

The 19-year-old senior at Barbers Hill High School in the Houston area has faced numerous suspensions since the start of the 2023-24 school year due to what school administrators say is a violation of the school's dress code.

George's natural locs fall below his eyebrows and ear lobes, which school officials say violates the district's dress code for male students.

The 19-year-old was suspended just before the Texas law wentinto effect statewide on Sept 1, 2023. Later that month, he and his mother filed a lawsuit against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the state's attorney general, saying they failed to enforce the law.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Jonathan Franklin
Jonathan Franklin is a digital reporter on the News desk covering general assignment and breaking national news.