Racial discrimination can take many forms. According to a bill recently passed unanimously by the California State Senate, it includes regulations involving “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
The bill — SB 188 — is known as the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (C.R.O.W.N) Act. It would amend the state’s current anti-discrimination laws to prohibit workplaces as well as schools from having dress codes that don’t allow employees or students to have natural hairstyles. These include styles such as afros, twists, braids and dreadlocks.
One case that gained national media attention last year involved a high school wrestler in New Jersey who had to have his dreadlocks cut off to avoid forfeiting his match. Earlier this year, a law took effect in New York City that allows people to “maintain natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with their racial, ethnic, or cultural identities.”
The state senator behind the California bill says that its purpose is to encourage businesses as well as schools to enact policies related to appearance “that will foster inclusion and diversity.” She noted that African American men, as well as women, often have to undergo painful, expensive and even potentially dangerous hair treatments to abide by their employers’ grooming policies.
The language of the legislation notes that these policies are commonly based on Eurocentric grooming and dress standards. It says in part that “Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair…have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group.”
The bill now moves to the State Assembly for consideration. If it passes there, it will need to be signed by Gov. Newsom. In the meantime, if you believe that you are facing discrimination of this or any kind because of your race, it may be wise to find out what your options are.