California Set To Be First U.S. State To Ban Hair Discrimination

California lawmakers have passed a bill to protect black employees and students by outlawing discrimination against people who wear “ethnic” hairstyles such as braids, dreadlocks, and Afros, NPR reports.

The bill states, “The history of our nation is riddled with laws and societal norms that equated ‘blackness,’ and the associated physical traits, for example, dark skin, kinky and curly hair to a badge of inferiority.” The Bill also contends that professionalism has always been tied to European beauty standards and that restrictive grooming policies have unfairly targeted black employees and students more than any other group.

According to NPR, the measure referred to as the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair), passed in the state Senate, 69 to 0. Senator Holly Mitchell told the publication, “While we got no No votes, there were some people who chose to abstain,” She added, “I have no idea why they abstained.”

Mitchell also said she has received numerous letters from distraught constituents who have suffered or know someone who has suffered from such discrimination against their hairstyles. “The sheer volume of women and men and parents of students who have been sent home because someone deems their braids, twists or locks were inappropriate for workplace settings, the sheer volume of people, suggests this clearly is a law whose time has come.”

California’s bill contends that the definition of race would include “traits historically associated with race,” such as hair texture and “protective styles,” like twists and braids. 

New York and New Jersey have also proposed similar legislation. New York City enacted its own policy in February which protects cornrows, Afros, fades and other hairstyles. “Black hairstyles are protected racial characteristics under the [New York City Human Rights Law] because they are an inherent part of Black identity,” said New York’s Commission on Human Rights.

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