In the conquest of civil rights by the black community in the United States, there is still a long way to go. This Friday, the House of Representatives has approved the norm that will prohibit any discrimination based on a person’s hair. If you are African-American, you face a dilemma that other ethnic groups do not: let your natural hair grow or subject it to chemical products so that “bad hair” is transformed into “good hair”. The Crown Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) aims to create a respectful and open workplace for natural hair by prohibiting “discrimination based on an individual’s hairstyle or hair texture.” The law now goes to the Senate. Its approval in the House was made in a partisan way, 235 Democratic votes in favor and 189 Republicans against.
Some states such as California, Colorado, New York and New Jersey had already adopted the Crown legislation and in more than twenty there are bills to sanction discrimination due to Afro hair in their respective state Congresses. Introduced by New Jersey Democratic Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, the rule states that “African Americans are routinely deprived of educational and employment opportunities for wearing their hair naturally or in a variety of ways, including braids and dreadlocks.” .
“Today we are here, even if my colleagues on the other side of the bench do not recognize it, defending discriminated people, like children in school, like adults who are trying to get a job, people who are looking to get housing, people who simply want access to protected housing and be beneficiaries of programs funded by the federal government,” Watson said in remarks on the House floor this Friday morning. “And why are they denied these opportunities?”, the congresswoman has asked herself rhetorically. “Because there are people in this society who make decisions who think that because your hair is curly, or braided, or knotted, or not straight or blonde or light brown, somehow you’re not worthy of all of that ( …) That’s discrimination,” he concluded.
For decades, US courts have received lawsuits from African-Americans who were fired from their jobs for wearing natural, untamed hair. In 2010, Chastity Jones, an African American from Alabama, received an offer to work in customer service at Catastrophe Management Solutions. However, the requirement was that he cut his dreadlocks because “they tended to get messy.” The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued on behalf of Jones in 2013 and lost. In 2016, an Appeals Court upheld the ruling and dismissed the case. The Supreme Court did not want to hear it. Jones refused to change her hairstyle because it is an expression of her “heritage, culture, and racial pride,” as described by another plaintiff, who was fired from her for not unbraiding her hair.
“There is no logical reason why someone should be discriminated against on any level because of the texture or style of their hair,” said Watson Coleman, who without naming him alluded to Andrew Johnson, a black New Jersey varsity wrestler. with dreadlocks who was forced in 2018 to make a tough decision: cut his hair or give up the fight.
“This bill is vitally important,” Watson continued. “It’s important for young girls and boys who have to get their hair cut in the middle of a wrestling match in front of everyone because a white referee says their hair is inappropriate for wrestling.” Before the vote was taken, several African-American legislators testified that they had been discriminated against because of their hair. Gwen Moore, a Democrat from Wisconsin, said someone told a former employer of hers that the way her hair looked was “disgraceful”.
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