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Photography The Masons

The US is one step closer to banning Black hair discrimination


TextAlex Peters

Now if they could just defund the police…

The United States House of Representatives just passed the CROWN Act, which would legally prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle and texture across the country.

The act was introduced to the House of Representatives in December 2019 by Representative Cedric Richmond, along with Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Marcia Fudge, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley. It will now move to the Senate for consideration. If passed by the Senate, which involves the legislation being approved by at least 51 of the 100 Senate representatives, natural hair discrimination could be deemed illegal nationwide if the President then signs it into law. 

“For far too long, Black women have been penalized for simply existing as themselves – that ends today. The House just passed the CROWN Act to end hair discrimination,” Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted on Monday. “This passage is long overdue, but an important step forward to combat racial discrimination.”

The CROWN Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” is a law that prohibits discrimination in schools and the workplace based on hairstyle and hair texture including bans on afros, dreadlocks, cornrows, braids, and other traditionally Black hairstyles. The law is already in effect in several individual states including California, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Virginia, Colorado and Maryland.

If the act is approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President it would prohibit discrimination nationwide including in the 14 states where it was filed and it did not pass. The law would stop incidents happening such as DeAndre Arnold, a senior in Mont Belvieu, Texas, being suspended and banned from attending his high school graduation because of his dreadlocks or high school wrestler Andrew Johnson having his dreadlocks forcibly cut by a referee in order to not forfeit his match.

For those people in the US, you can help ensure the CROWN Act's passage in the Senate by getting in touch with your state senators and urging them to approve the legislation. You can reach your senators via email, social media, and phone. Just call the US Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, where an operator can connect you with the Senate office of your choosing.

While the CROWN Act is US-based legislation, campaigners in the UK are working to bring in similar laws to this country. Although workplace discrimination on the basis on gender, race or religion is illegal in the UK there is currently no laws specifically protecting against hair discrimination. 

Because of this there have been many incidents of pupils being excluded from school because of their hair. Five-year-old Josiah Sharpe was excluded from playtime and then banned from school because of his fade hairstyle which the school considered too “extreme,” while Chikayzea Flanders was told on his first day at Fulham Boys school that his dreadlocks had to be cut off or he would face suspension. Tyrese Francis was banned from lessons and put in isolation at Mossbourne Victoria Park Academy because his fade was deemed inappropriate. 

Earlier this year, London student Ruby Williams was awarded an £8,500 settlement in compensation for being repeatedly sent home from the Urswick School over the course of two years because of her Afro hair. 

Elsewhere, Jamaica’s Supreme Court recently ruled in favour of a school’s decision to demand that a seven-year-old student cut her dreadlocks to attend classes.

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