By Karen Robinson-Jacobs and Dawn Suggs
“I know what it’s like to sit in that waiting room, to sit in that office, and know that the person on the other side of the table is judging me for the way I chose to wear my hair,” – Congresswoman Cori Bush, who voted in favor of the Crown Acts passage in The House.
Most Black women in this country can relate to this experience of being made to feel uncomfortable in your skin, or specifically, in your hair. Whether they’ve decided to wear their hair naturally, in braids, cornrows or locs, short or shaved, put in a weave, adorned with extensions, hot ironed or relaxed, Black women and men still are judged by white European standards of beauty in the U.S.
Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) has taken action to protect African Americans and the right to be culturally expressive of who we are by introducing in Congress, the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act which would make it illegal to discriminate against people based on a hair style and texture, “commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.”
The bill states: “Some Federal courts have misinterpreted Federal civil rights law by narrowly interpreting the meaning of race or national origin, and thereby permitting, for example, employers to discriminate against people of African descent who wear natural or protective hairstyles even though the employment policies involved are not related to workers’ ability to perform their jobs.”
The Crown Act would expand the lexicon of race and national origin under federal civil rights protection to include hair style and texture. It would prohibit discrimination on this basis at schools and in work places, and training environments, so that grooming policies and codes could no longer single out and prohibit African American hairstyles and hair. That includes “a hairstyle in which hair is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros.” It would deem such discrimination a violation of title 11, of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.