The Crown Act
The “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” Act, also known as The Crown Act, was founded and first introduced in 2019 in an effort to protect people of color from hair-based discrimination in employment and education. This petition was important because of the rising and persistent bias faced by Black and Brown adults and children for wearing hairstyles that highlight the natural state of their hair and reflect their culture. Ethnic hair - which is characterized by its texture, elasticity and tight coils includes locs, afros, cornrows, twists, and braids - has been socially labeled unprofessional, untidy, unwieldy and unkempt.
The natural hair movement of the 1960s and 70s was more than a style or fashion trend. The infamous afro represented Black resistance against oppression, rejection of White beauty standards, and a political expression of Black pride. The resurgence of a natural hair movement occurred in the early 2010s, where a new generation of Black women began, again, to celebrate and reclaim their Black identity through their hair. Their reasons varied from personal to political, from health reasons to environmental ones, but the pushback for self-acceptance has had both economic and educational consequences.
Hair-based racist bias, which is experienced by all genders, has resulted in such extremes as criminalization, workplace microaggression, and the denial of a job or deserved promotion for adults, and school suspension, dress code violation, or expulsion for Black children who are told their hair is “inappropriate and distracting.”
The passage of The Crown Act at a federal level would make hair discrimination illegal nationwide, but it is not a federal law, so people of color who choose to wear their hair the way it grows from their head face discrimination and recrimination in 26 of the 50 states.
Jasmine Payne-Patterson notes that “while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 added protections against race-based discrimination, it did not include protections against discrimination based on phenotypical markers that manifest race, such as hair texture.” This provides a loophole for legalized racism.
The NAACP describes natural hair discrimination as “racism by another name,” and the Crown Act calls for statutory protection against it. However, without nationwide legal protections against hair discrimination, Black and Brown people continue to be policed and punished when they do not conform to Eurocentric aesthetics and standards.
One of the most beautiful things about ethnic hair is its versatility. Black people should be able to make choices about their hairstyles on their own terms and in their own time. Truth is, we shouldn’t need anti-discrimination laws to allow people to wear their hair however they want, but when it comes to race, people of color will always need and deserve protection from the unrelenting indignities of racism.
I’m Robin Boylorn, until next time…keep it crunk!
Written by Robin Boylorn
Edited by Brittany Young