The fight against racial discrimination against black natural hair and hairstyles is nearing its end as the US House passed the CROWN (Creating A Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act. 235 members of the House voted for the bill against 189 members who voted against the bill. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley made a remark about the importance of the Bill, stating that;
“For too long. Black girls have been discriminated against and criminalized for the hair that grows on our heads and the way we move through and show up in this world……Whether you are a student in a classroom, an employee in the workplace, or the next Supreme Court Justice or the Speaker Pro Tempore, you deserve to show up as your full self, rocking your crown with your head held high.”
Amongst the 189 who voted against the bill, Rep. Jim Jordan is perhaps the most outspoken one. The Republican congressman called the Bill a distraction. He further described the push for the passage of the Bill by the Democrats as chaotic, insinuating that there are more relevant issues that needed to be dealt with.
“How about a world where gas prices aren’t five dollars a gallon? … How about a world where inflation isn’t at a 40-year high?” Jordan said Friday. “How about a world where we’re actually energy independent? Those are the issues we should be focused on. But Democrats today — Friday, March 18, 2022, with chaos all over the place — this is what they’re focused on.”
Notwithstanding, a majority of the house members voted to pass the bill which will make its way to the Senate, and if approved, it will be signed into law by the President. The CROWN Act was previously introduced in 2019, but it was never signed into law. Many believe that this was a result of strong opposition by the then-Republican ruled Senate. However, there is a ray of hope as President Biden shows strong support for the bill having said that;
“No person should be denied the ability to obtain a job, succeed in school or the workplace, secure housing, or otherwise exercise their rights based on a hair texture or hairstyle”.
The Journey So Far
Although the CROWN Act had failed at a national level, some states went ahead to implement the Act or its variation. California was the first state to sign the CROWN Act into law in July 2019. Several other states including New York, New Jersey, Washington, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Illinois amongst others are following suit.
If signed into law, the Act will prohibit discrimination against not only girls alone but “people of African descent” wearing their natural hair, whether at work or in school and such actions will be treated as a federal civil rights violation. It will be a great relief, especially for those living in states where such discriminatory acts are still being practiced.
“..routinely, people of African descent are deprived of educational and employment opportunities because they are adorned with natural or protective hairstyles in which hair is tightly curled, or worn in locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, or Afros.”
Jerrold Nadler, another member of the US House of Rep. highlights the impact of the bill, calling it a “critically important civil rights bill”, but his colleague and Republican Jim Jordan failed to see it that way. Jordan considered the bill a distraction from more pressing matters.
The CROWN Act was received in the Senate on the 21st of March and so far it has been read twice and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. So much depends on this Act becoming law but this is expected considering how important it is. Here is how people are responding to the news of the CROWN Act making it past the House of Representatives.
Natural Hair Discrimination – A Decade Long Battle
“Students have been sent home from school or told they could not walk at graduation, employees have been told to change their hair because it violated their employer’s dress code. Some people have been denied jobs altogether because of their hairstyles”
This summarizes the plight of the black people who are constantly being misjudged because of their natural hair. Most people will recall Chastity C. Jones who was fired from her job as a customer service representative after she refused to cut her locs. She went ahead to file a lawsuit against the company which ultimately failed because the court ruled that terminating her employment didn’t violate any federal civil rights law. But Chastity isn’t alone, there are several instances of such discrimination that call for immediate action.
Jett Hawkin a 4-year old boy whose braided hair was said to be a violation of the schools’ dress code policy. His mom, Ida Nelson, campaigned against such racial discrimination and it led to the signing of the Jett Hawkins Act into law in Illinois.
Until recently, servicemen/women of African descent in the US Armed Forces were prohibited from wearing their natural hair or even styling it. But the policy was lifted in February 2021 on the grounds that such prohibitions were racially instigated and had nothing to do with the serviceman/woman’s qualifications and ability to carry out their duty. This further amplifies Rep. Bonnie Coleman’s statement as she introduced the bill on the house floor;
“There’s no logical reason that anyone should be discriminated against on any level because of the texture of their hair or the style of their hair.”
Expectations and Reactions Trailing The Crown Act
For the most part, there has been a lot of positive feedback following the passage of the CROWN Act. Ilhan Omar a co-sponsor of the bill and member of the US House of Representatives said;
“For far too long, Black women have been penalized for simply existing as themselves – that ends today..”
Adjoa Asamoah, legislative strategist and co-creator of the CROWN Act Coalition also spoke on the passage of the Act. She acknowledges the fact that there’s still much work to do, beyond creating a policy. There is also a need for a change in culture.
“There’s the shift in policy and then there’s a shift in culture”.
This is clearly a major milestone in the fight against all forms of racism. The social media is buzzing about the news and here are some tweets you should see.