DISCRIMINATION BASED ON HAIR IN THE UNITED STATES
In 2018, high school wrestler, Andrew Johnson, was forced to publicly cut his locs in order to avoid forfeiting a match. The video recording went viral and led to an uproar of criticism against the referee and accusations of exploitation of power and racism. Along with centuries worth of discriminatory incidents, the community outrage over Andrew’s case fostered state-level reform through the Crown Act (@thecrownact). So far only six states have officially passed the legislation throughout their entire territory, #California being the first in 2019; followed by #NewYork, #NewJersey, #Virginia, #Colorado, and #Washington
Within the school setting, there are many reported incidents of students being removed from classrooms because their hair was “too puffy.” As no federal law prohibits the unjust acts against racial discrimination through hair, schools and programs have the freedom to develop their own guidelines that revolve around appearance.
The problem is much deeper than what we see on the surface.
There are many forms of discrimination still alive and well within the United States; one being against the wearing of textured hair and protective styles in schools and the workplace.
Workplace discrimination regarding race, age, color, sex, religion, and national origin is illegal in the United States. Often times, when applying to new positions, employers opt to a formal acknowledgment which reads:
“We're an equal opportunity employer. All applicants will be considered for employment without attention to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, veteran, or disability status.” But, when it comes to racial discrimination related to hair, the lines quickly blur as black people are subjected to microaggressions and disproportionate bias on a regular basis. Being asked to have someone’s fingers run through your hair and being told our braids are not professional enough for a partnership meeting is a problem. For centuries black folks have had to conform to “proper” hairstyles, forcing us to chemically and/or thermally alter our natural hair.
THE CROWN ACT, led by the CROWN Coalition, founded by Dove, National Urban League, Color Of Change and Western Center of Law & Poverty, ensures protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Codes.
THE CROWN ACT: A Step further
The state-by-state push is part of the federal initiative.
While federal law already prohibits hair discrimination as it relates to “racial or national origin discrimination” it is argued that some federal courts have “narrowly construed” those rules in a way that allows schools and workplaces to discriminate against black people who wear specific natural or protective hairstyles.
The Crown Act legislation being passed at the federal level would make it clear that discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles associated with people of African descent, including hair that is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros is a prohibited form of racial or national origin discrimination.
ACCORDING TO A SURVEY FROM DOVE
Black women 30% more likely to be made aware of a formal workplace appearance policy.
80% of black women feel the need to change their hair from its natural state to fit in at the office.
Black women 1.5x more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair.
83% of black women are more likely to report being judge more harshly on her looks than other women.
Black women’s hair is 3.4x more likely to be perceived as unprofessional.
The Crown Act: Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair