The events of 2020 have provided a major (and much-needed) wake-up call to the inequities that members of the Black community face in the United States. And though there have been some significant changes across the board—the 15 percent pledge, for example—in most places across the country, hair-based discrimination is somehow still completely legal. But thanks to a major win for The CROWN Act in the House of Representatives on Monday, that could soon change.
The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace) Act was created in 2019 as a partnership between beauty brand Dove and the Crown Coalition to ensure protection against race-based hair discrimination (against styles such as locs, braids, twists, and knots) in public schools and workplaces. According to research from Dove in 2019, hair-based discrimination continues to run rampant. Black women are 80 percent more likely than white women to feel the need to change their hair from its natural state to fit in at the office, 30 percent more likely to be made aware of a formal workplace appearance policy, and 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair—which is why The CROWN Act’s mission toward inclusion is critically important.
Standing in front of the House of Representatives on Monday, Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (who introduced the bill along with Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, along with California Rep. Barbara Lee, and Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge) delivered a powerful speech about why we need a unified, national shift toward the acceptance of natural hair. “From personal handbooks to school dress-code policies, afros, locs, and twists have been codified as proxies for our Black skin and manifestations of anti-Black racism,” she said. “Many, especially Black women, grow up hearing that our natural kinks and coils are distracting, ghetto, ugly, and unprofessional.” She went on to say that she stands “in honor of those who don all crown types,” and is strongly in support of ending “the centuries of discrimination against Black hair types.”
Prior to this latest win, the CROWN Act had only been passed on a state level in California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, and Maryland, making hair-based discrimination illegal in these seven places. Now, it’s one step closer to becoming federal law. “We are excited by and proud of the historic passing of the CROWN Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, [but[ we will not slow down while we await The CROWN Act reaching the Senate,” says Esi Eggleston Bracey, the EVP and COO of Unilever North America, who is also one of our 2020 Changemakers. Looking ahead, she and the team at the CROWN coalition will continue to push for legislation at the state and national levels to ensure members of the Black community are free to wear their natural hair however they so choose.
While the latest news represents a significant win, there’s still more work to be done. Next up? Passing the bill in the Senate. To do your part to help push it forward, sign the CROWN Act petition and visit TheCrownAct.com for a templated e-mail you can send to send your local legislators.
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