Earlier this month Governor Gavin Newsom signed the SB-188 Bill, also known as the CROWN Act, making the state of California the first in the nation to protect people in the workplace and students in grades K-12 from being discriminated based on natural hair.
The Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act has been sponsored by several groups, including Dove, to begin setting consistent policies in the workplace and schools that do not discriminate on traits associated with race — such as natural hairstyles like afros, braids and locks.
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) July 3, 2019
Under Section 1, subsections A through C on the CROWN Act read as follows:
(a) 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, sometimes subject to separate and unequal treatment.
(b) This idea also permeated societal understanding of professionalism. Professionalism was, and still is, closely linked to European features and mannerisms, which entails that those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional.
(c) Despite the great strides American society and laws have made to reverse the racist ideology that Black traits are inferior, hair remains a rampant source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences, especially for Black individuals.
Any law set in place to protect individuals against any type of discrimination to create a more inclusive and equal environment is a step toward the right direction in our society. However, as I asked local residents about how they felt about the CROWN act there were mixed reviews.
The CROWN Act is a national conversation. https://t.co/RnsET4NDZp
— SenHJMitchell (@SenHJMitchell) July 4, 2019
Local resident Lauren James, a Georgia native, has experienced discrimination in the workplace based on her hairstyle and although she was never asked directly to change her hair, she does recall being told her hairstyle violated company policy and it needed to represent the company. “It is sad to say that a law has to come in place just so we can be able to wear our own hair without being discriminated. So, if a law has to come in place to protect us and our natural beauty, let it begin.”
Roshan Jackson, another local resident, was surprised to learn about the new law. “I watch the news all the time for the same reason to stay informed and I can’t help but think why are they not featuring things like this new law; because these are the type of stories people need to know about and learn especially when they pertain to protecting rights in the workplace and schools and get the word out.”
Dee, a local barber, recalls recently having a client request to have his hairstyle changed. “One of my clients had to cut his long hair off because of his job. I can’t recall what he did for a living but I get people that come in all the time that have to switch up their hairstyles due to their jobs.” He continued, “I feel the law is a good thing. People shouldn’t be discriminated by the style of their hair. I don’t think people should be judged on their hairstyle. As long as their professional, do their job and keep up with their hygiene I don’t think the hairstyle or color matters.”