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The House shows Love to Our Crown

The House shows Love to Our Crown

There’s some exciting news in the hair community that has been a long time coming! On March 18, 2022, after much debate amongst legislators on the House floor, The CROWN Act was officially passed in the House of Representatives! Black men, women and children with natural hair of all textures…this one is for US!


The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2022 is better known by its acronym, The CROWN Act of 2022. The CROWN Act, by official government definition, is a bill that prohibits discrimination based on a person’s hair texture or hairstyle. This is because 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. Persons shall not be deprived of equal rights under the law and shall not be subjected to discriminatory practices based on their hair texture or style. (Source: Congress.gov)


The CROWN Act, created by California State Senator Holly Mitchell in partnership with Dove and their CROWN coalition, was created in 2019 in an attempt to end hair discrimination among men, women and children of color in California workplaces and schools. First introduced to the House of Representatives on March 19, 2021, California was the first state to sign The CROWN Act on July 3, 2019. A day that officially became known as #CrownDay.


The state of New York was quick to follow, and was the second state to pass The CROWN Act shortly after California on July 12, 2019. States such as New Jersey, Virginia, and Colorado also showed their support by signing as well. To date, 14 states have officially signed The CROWN Act into law. This is what makes March 18. 2022, the day The CROWN Act passed in the House, was extremely important. We can no longer wait for the other 36 states to understand the importance of passing The CROWN Act into law one by one. We need our Federal Government to act fast and act now to protect us from this unwarranted discrimination.


For decades, we have faced racism and discriminatory practices due to bias’ towards our natural beauty as it is compared to European standards. During and post slavery we were scrutinized from everything from our physique, to the color of our skin, to the way our natural hair grows out of our heads. Throughout past decades we have seen a transition in how we rock our crowns. From the revolutionary invention in the late 1800s of the hot comb that pressed out our kinks, to the way we rocked our afros in the 60s and 70s, down to the early 90s when acquiring professional roles called for assimilation. The thought of showing up to an interview with anything but straight silky hair was unheard of. Day after day we would pull our hair into buns, add heat or relax our curls so as not to draw too much attention to ourselves. Too often in its natural state our hair is said to be distracting to those around us. Studies show that more than 80% of women feel as though they have to alter their appearance and hair to be deemed acceptable in an office environment.


Unfortunately hair bias and discrimination doesn’t stop in the workplace. Over the past few years we’ve seen more and more headlines of black students’ hair being policed by outdated school dress code policies. Students such as DeAndre Arnold, a black male Texas student who was banned from his High School graduation due to his locs. This was never found to be in actual violation of the schools hair policy. Interviews can be found online of a well spoken young man, supported by his mother, expressing his concerns about being targeted. Despite the fact that he is not actually violating the policy, but simply has the possibility of doing so. DeAndre’s story is just one of many over the years as young girls have come forward countless times for school suspensions over box braids, bantu knots, and curly afros. School administrations call them distracting, a differentiating factor that creates socioeconomic division (seriously…what?!), and even deeming them ‘untidy’. Meanwhile, white students are considered spirited when they dye their hair rainbow colors, grow their hair as long as they want, or rock a mullet with pride.


In the media, discrimination against black hair is more common. To display our abilities on the big screen we must first relax our curls and ensure our hair is gone-with-the-wind fabulous. Straightened, relaxed, or covered with wigs it wasn’t often that we would see our favorite media personalities or actors in their natural state. I remember watching the Oprah Winfrey show day after day and staring at how shiny and straight her hair was. Realizing that her personal hairstylist would literally straighten her hair every single day prior to hitting that set. Even my favorite singers and girl groups growing up would rock silk presses and short haircuts, but never their natural curls.


Like many others, what I saw in the media and around me directly impacted what I felt comfortable with for my own personal looks and style. Never having a relaxer, my mother and aunt would press out my hair as a young child. They would then put it in a million bows and knockers to keep it ‘tame’. As I got older, Saturday morning hair appointments to get a wash, blow dry and press were just a part of my weekly routine. I would get scolded by my mother for playing too hard and sweating out my press. Eventually, I hit high school and she purchased me a flat iron. Now, keeping up with my tailbone length hair was my job and I would ensure every single morning before school that it was as straight as could be. Back then, we didn’t consider the damage we were doing with all of that heat. All that mattered was length, shine and straightness, so the longer, the better.


I’ll never forget my first interview. The summer before my Junior year hit, I was excited to be old enough to land my first job to have some extra spending money. I remember greasing and pressing my hair bone straight and pulling it back into the tightest ponytail I could possibly get it into. No one had ever verbally told me that black hair was unprofessional. However, somehow I automatically knew that before I could sit down to interview I had to take any possible distractions away from my hair. Not even the summer heat raising my edges could be an issue. Therefore, I remember wrapping a silk scarf around my head and not taking it off until right before I got out of my car. A trick I used for many years before stepping into any professional setting. Fast forward to 2013, when I finally realized that my curly hair, and how it naturally grows out of my head, is professional. Talk about feeling free!


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I’m not the only one who has since embraced their natural hair whether at school or in the workplace. Since The CROWN Act was first introduced, we have seen a welcome wave of positive black hair images and acts of acceptance in the mainstream. In 2019 Hair Love, an Oscar awarded animated short film by Matthew A. Cherry, shined a light on the positive relationships between black fathers and their daughters as well as highlighted the importance of self acceptance through a story about hair. Also in 2019, for the first time we placed a crown on the curls and coils of an all black Miss America, Teen USA and Miss USA! The #blackgirlmagic was so inspiring to see for the first time 3 black females be able to embrace their natural hair and win the title. We also began to see a surge of media outlets such as local news now highlighting black female news anchors and panelists embracing their natural hair and beauty. Segments dedicated to them addressing how they are embracing the change and giving them the opportunity to speak directly to the viewers who criticized their natural beauty. What we once tried to not draw attention to, we are now outwardly speaking about and openly speaking against the bias that has gone on for far too long. Where I once watched Oprah every day with her silky fresh press, my daughter now watches so many beautiful black women with their sister locs, curls, coils and afros on her television screen.


With so much progress happening around the world for black hair, what’s next for The CROWN Act? Now that it has officially passed in the House the next steps are to get it passed in the Senate. We hope to present it to President Biden who we hope will, without hesitation, sign it into law. The question is, is the Senate diverse enough to understand the importance of prohibiting discrimination based on hair texture? With the current 50/50 split between the Democrats and the Republicans, 3 of those seats being filled by a black person (6 hispanic) one could only hope, right? In the meantime, it’s imperative that we continue to do the work at a State level. This is because to date The CROWN Act has passed in less than 30% of our states. We must continue to educate and push our state and federal legislators to do what’s right and pass The CROWN Act in all 50 states.


What’s next for our community once The CROWN Act is passed? Men, women and children everywhere will feel protected and empowered to be themselves. Not only is there a chance to increase creativity through self acceptance, but it will also feel so good to see more individuality in the workplace and schools. People should feel free to show up as themselves, to do amazing work without having to worry about whether they will be judged and by whom. I myself am so proud of how far we have come over the years with dismantling the racial bias towards us in schools, at work and in everyday life. I proudly rock my natural curls and do my part to inspire those around me to embrace and display their crowns how they see fit. This is so long as their hair is healthy and they are happy. I hope that we continue making great strides in showing the world that how our hair grows out of our heads should be respected and celebrated.


I will continue to watch the next steps with The CROWN Act in hopes that we get this signed into law! If you would like to show your support of The CROWN Act head over to thecrownact.com to learn more. You can also sign the petition at https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/help-make-hair-discrimination-illegal. They are less than 100k signatures away from their goal of 500k! Every signature counts and brings us one step closer to ending hair discrimination in schools and the workplace.


Tabitha Wiggins

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