Each day, many Black people go to work or school with the fear that they could be fired or be sent home, because of how they’ve chosen to wear their hair. This is the reality right now in 43 states across the U.S., and there are no protections to end this discrimination or fight back.
ROOTED IN HISTORY
Black hairstyles have some very deep roots in history. Cultures in Africa have been braiding hair for hundreds of years, and displaced, enslaved people wore cornrows as an homage to where they’d come from, as well as to keep their hair secured during long, labored hours. Cornrows were also a way to communicate with others during enslavement in the U.S. Sporting natural styles like the afro became an empowering and iconic form of activism of Black voices in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the fade’s military beginnings were honed and reclaimed by hip hop culture in the ’80s and ‘90s.
Yet, for far too long, mainstream society has considered textured hair and protective hairstyles “unprofessional”, “unattractive”, or “unkempt”, which specifically targets Black folks. This is hair discrimination—and hair discrimination is racial discrimination.
”My hair has been called a mop, strangers and acquaintances have put their hands in my hair without permission, and I’ve been told that my hair “needed to be fixed” to be deemed acceptable in the workplace. My hair is true to my core, my essence, my identity, and my history. Despite how Eurocentric beauty standards have tried to govern my appearance, I choose to resist oppressive narratives and policies that deny my humanity. We need legislation that ends hair discrimination. Contact your legislators in support of the CROWN Act.”
Cierra Kaler-Jones, Social Justice Educator, Writer, and Researcher
A research study conducted in 2019 by the JOY Collective found that in the United States, 80% of Black women agreed with the statement, “I have to change my hair from its natural state to fit in at the office”. And, overall, they’re 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from their jobs simply because of their hair or hairstyle.
This discrimination isn’t just limited to the U.S. either. Canada lacks any protections against hair-based discrimination of natural or protective hairstyles in the workplace, schools or public spaces. Notable cases, including a woman who was sent home from work for having cornrows and another who was told her hair could 'scare' customers, exist and make a strong case for federal protections.
The CROWN Act
Created in 2019, The CROWN Act (which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”) would prohibit race-based discrimination, so no one can be denied employment or educational opportunities by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective hairstyles. It’s time to put an end to hair discrimination and in the United States, support for The CROWN Act is growing.
Since its inception, seven states (California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington and Maryland) have enacted laws to end hair discrimination. In September 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR 5309, which states:
“This bill prohibits discrimination based on a person's hair texture or hairstyle if that style or texture is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin. Specifically, the bill prohibits this type of discrimination against those participating in federally assisted programs, housing programs, public accommodations, and employment.”
The CROWN Act is expected to be re-introduced in the 117th Congress and, if passed again, will head to the Senate. Take action by sending an email to your Senator, ensuring their support for the bill, once it comes to vote.
In Canada, demand that lawmakers enact legislation to prevent hair discrimination by sending an email to Parliament.
It’s time to end hair discrimination and celebrate natural hair and hairstyles.