Free expression is not just something we value at The Optimist Daily, it is an inalienable right. One big way in which we all express ourselves is through our individual hairstyles. Last week, Congress passed a bill that forbids discrimination based on hair.
The discrimination Black Hair faces
Black individuals routinely face bias based on hairstyles such as afros, cornrows, or coiled twists. This can negatively affect them in school and professional life, with many calling such hairstyles “unprofessional.”
Lawmakers in favor of the bill — known as the Crown Act — cited issues of civil rights where judges dismissed certain cases on the basis that the law does not protect against the discrimination of hair. A study by Dove in 2019 showed that 20 percent of Black women had to change their natural hairstyle for professional reasons and that Black students were more likely to be suspended for hair violations.
The Crown Act
“There are folks in this society who think because your hair is kinky, it is braided, it is in knots or it is not straightened blonde and light brown, that you somehow are not worthy of access,” said Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, the lead sponsor of the bill. “Well, that’s discrimination.”
Now, the US House of Representatives has passed the Crown Act which forbids the discrimination of an individual based on hair. It will then go onto the Senate and then onto the desk of the president, who has already agreed to sign it into law. Lawmakers in favor of the bill pointed out that this is a necessary step to take for civil rights and the end of discrimination.
“These members, who are mostly male and white, who have never experienced this kind of discrimination, who don’t have the ability to actually speak to it … really should leave it up to the policymakers who have done the work and who have experienced this level of discrimination,” said Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.