The CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair)) is a California law that extends protection under the FEHA and the California Education Code to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture. It is the first state-level legislation in the United States to prohibit such discrimination.
The CROWN Act has been enacted in several U.S. states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Colorado, as well as in some municipalities.
The CROWN Act represents a significant stride in tackling discrimination in various institutions. This legislation prohibits employers, schools, and other entities from discriminating against individuals because of their natural hair texture, style, or protective hairstyles such as braids, twists, and locs. Furthermore, it offers protection against discrimination based on hair length, texture, or hairstyles associated with a particular race or ethnicity.
One of the most notable cases of hair discrimination in recent years was the case of Andrew Johnson, a high school wrestler from New Jersey. In 2018, Johnson was forced to cut off his locs before a wrestling match, or else forfeit the match. The incident sparked outrage and reignited the conversation about hair discrimination in schools and sports.
In 2017, two Black high school students in Massachusetts, Mya and Deanna Cook, were prohibited from participating in any extracurricular activities at their school, including prom.
The school threatened to suspend the Cook sisters for violating the dress code after they refused to take out their braided hair extensions and were given multiple hours of detention. The Cooks fought back. Students, parents, organizations, and the Massachusetts attorney general rallied against the school, condemning its rules as discriminatory and in violation of both state and federal laws.
Another high-profile case was that of Chastity Jones, who lost a job offer because of her dreadlocks. Jones was offered a job at Catastrophe Management Solutions in Alabama, but the company rescinded the offer after she refused to cut her dreadlocks. Jones filed a lawsuit, but it was dismissed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the company’s policy did not constitute race discrimination.
These cases illustrate the pervasive nature of hair discrimination and the need for legislative action to protect individuals from discrimination based on their natural hair. The CROWN Act and similar legislation are essential steps towards ending this form of discrimination and creating a more inclusive society.
However, some critics argue that it is unnecessary and could lead to frivolous lawsuits. Opponents argue that employers and schools should have the right to enforce dress codes and grooming policies as they see fit. They also claim that it could lead to confusion and legal challenges, as it may be difficult to determine what constitutes discrimination based on hair.
Despite these criticisms, the CROWN Act has received widespread support from advocates, lawmakers, and civil rights groups. Supporters argue that natural hair discrimination is a serious issue that has long-lasting impacts on Black individuals, including limiting job opportunities and affecting their self-esteem.
In addition to legislation, many companies and organizations have also taken steps to address hair discrimination. For example, in 2019, the Army revised its grooming policies to allow for natural hairstyles such as twists and locs. Several major companies, including Dove and Pantene, have launched campaigns to celebrate and promote natural hair.
This legislation is an important step towards ending hair discrimination and creating a more inclusive society. It sends a powerful message that discrimination based on hair texture, style, or protective hairstyles will no longer be tolerated. However, more work needs to be done to address systemic racism and discrimination in all forms.