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After centuries of Black people facing hair discrimination in public spaces, in seeking and maintaining employment, and at schools, The U.S. House passed the CROWN Act on Friday, banning discrimination against Black hairstyles.
The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, or H.R. 2116, passed in a vote of 235-189. Introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, it specifically prohibits “discrimination based on an individual’s texture or style of hair.”
The measure now heads to the Senate for consideration.
The CROWN Act’s passage in the House comes after Black people have faced legal and extralegal discrimination for their creative, vibrant hairstyles for centuries.
Black hair discrimination is as American as apple pie
For instance, in 1786 the tignon laws were passed by New Orleans Governor Esteban Rodriguez Miro. The laws stipulated that Creole women and women of African descent must wear a tignon (a type of head covering) or a head scarf to cover up their hair.
These laws aimed to stifle the enchanting and regal look of Black women as these free women explored their style, adorning their hair with feathers and jewels. Their style and hair were so striking, they exuded the image of wealth and class, leading to a significant rise in interracial relationships. Something like the CROWN Act would’ve been unthinkable during this time.
Seen as a threat to the social order in Louisiana, a threat to White women, the Governor hoped to control women “who had become too light skinned or who dressed too elegantly, or who competed too freely with White women for status and thus threatened the social order.”
National Parents Union responds
Christina Laster is Director of Policy and Legislation for the National Parents Union. The group is a network of parent organizations and grassroots activists across the country committed to improving the quality of life for children and families in the United States.
“I am encouraged by Congress passing this long overdue legislation, and hope the Senate follows this political momentum that Black families deserve to feel safe and respected,” she said in a statement shared with The Black Wall Street Times.
“National Parents Union polling in May 2021 found that a majority of parents (81%) support the CROWN Act—to protect public schools students and staff from discrimination based on race-related hair texture or hairstyle. It is incumbent on our policymakers to protect the rights of millions of Americans.”
CROWN Act demands equal respect for Black hair styles
Even as recently as this month, a Florida High School student was told he couldn’t walk for his graduation unless he cut his locs. The school has since apologized after receiving pushback from the community and the student’s mother.
Jacob Rush’s mother, Latrenda wrote in her petition, “My son has worked very diligently this year and to get the news that his senior picture shows that he has “Locs,” disqualifies him from marching unless he cuts them. This is very inhumane!”
On the state level, the CROWN Act has already passed in nearly a dozen states. They include: California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, Maryland, Connecticut, New Mexico, Delaware, and Nebraska.
Meanwhile, at least one House Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), claimed he would rather have Congress focus on “issues of importance to Americans.”
Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) clapped back in his support for the bill.
“Black people are American people, too. And when you say the American people don’t want it, you cannot exclude Black people. Black people would have this be on the floor. This is a kitchen table issue in Black households,” Green said.
The CROWN Act must now pass the Senate and then gain President Biden’s signature to become law.