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Miami Beach is the latest city to ban hair discrimination

by Ezekiel J. Walker
Miami Beach is the latest city to ban hair discrimination
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“It’s unacceptable in 2022 that Black Americans and other minorities still face discrimination based on something so trivial as whether or not they have textured or curly hair,” said Miami Beach Vice Mayor Alex Fernandez.

On Wednesday, The Miami Beach City Commission voted unanimously to prohibit discriminatory practices “based on the texture or style of a person’s hair,” the city said in a news release.

C.R.O.W.N. ACT is keeping hair discrimination at bay

Passing the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act” is more than symbolic, but according to the Washington Post, it has quickly become profitable for some. Celebrity hairstylist Edward Harvey states she has witnessed an 85% jump in clients wearing natural hairstyles since the CROWN Act passed in Maryland.

Maryland employers who violate the CROWN Act face penalties that include, but are not limited to: monetary relief for the victim, including lost/back wages, overtime and actual damages. They may also be required to provide training for the employer and/or the employees, and to draft or revise anti-discrimination policies for all employees.

Civil penalties can be imposed starting at $500 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second offense and $2,500 for the third offense.

“Race-based hair discrimination stems from a perception that straight hair is clean, neat and professional while the opposite belief applies to textured or curly hair types,” Alan Fishman, who chairs Miami Beach’s Human Rights Committee, said in a statement.

“In reality, this is just another way to discriminate based on racial stereotypes,” says Fishman.

On July 26, 2022, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the CROWN Act. Specifically, the new Massachusetts law prohibits discrimination on the basis of hair texture or hairstyles associated with race, including, but not limited to, natural and protective hairstyles, such as braids, locks, twists and Bantu knots.

By codifying the CROWN Act, Massachusetts joins more than a dozen states and localities that have passed similar legislation.

In Great Britain, schools are warned against hair discrimination

Schools are being warned not to penalise or exclude pupils for wearing their hair in natural afro styles, as well as braids, cornrows and plaits, in new guidance intended to prevent hair discrimination.

According to The Guardian, Britain’s equality watchdog has said school uniform and appearance policies that ban certain hairstyles without allowing for exceptions on racial and religious grounds are likely to be unlawful.

It is therefore urging schools to review their existing policies and practices to ensure they comply with the 2010 Equality and Human Rights Commission, which states girls and boys with afro-textured hair or hairstyles were disproportionately affected by discrimination and warned it could have serious and long-lasting consequences for them and their families.

From Miami to Massachusetts, governments protect protective styles

In the US, prior to the CROWN Act taking effect in October 2020, Black people could face employment loss or punishment in fields such as law enforcement, the airline industry and the armed services.

Miami Beach’s human rights ordinance already prohibited discrimination on the basis of various characteristics, including weight and height. The commission expanded those protections to now include hair texture associated with race, such as braids, locks, afros, curls and twists.

According to CBS News, Miami Beach officials did not immediately state if there was a specific incident that led to the commission’s decision to adopt the expanded ordinance.

The Miami Herald reported that the genesis for their ordinance came from the city’s human rights advisory committee, which first requested it in April 2021.

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