...The Extended Conversation
Episode 22: The CROWN Act
Black hair and hair culture have been a form of political activism for centuries. When black women were forced to cover our heads, we wore beautiful headwraps, highlighting our beauty. But penalized for the creativity and originality. To the 1960s, when certain types of hairstyles were pictured equivalent to resistance. The advertising presence shifted in the late 1960s-1990s, emphasizing black hair care be relaxed. Black women once again are resisting the traditional relaxed look, to its natural and cultural representation of curly/kinky hair and braids/cornrows. The US government isn’t too keen on black women being autonomous of our hair and bodies--some can make the argument about this overseas too. Schools and the military have placed discriminatory hair policies, due to lack of understanding (and cultural insensitivity) to black/brown individuals. The battle between our autonomy and black hair care remains. We will discuss the most recent piece of legislation, called the C.R.O.W.N act, which was created in support of banning these hair policies. How does this act translate to us as success in the workforce? What are we teaching our daughters about their hair? And what is teaching our sons as acceptable beauty?
The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act (SB 188) is a California law that prohibits discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture by extending protection for both categories under the FEHA and the California Education Code. It is the first legislation passed at the state level in the United States to prohibit such discrimination. The CROWN Act was first introduced and signed into law in the state of California by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (CA – District 30). The bill is now law in the state of New York championed by Assemblywoman Tremaine Wright (NY). The CROWN Act has also been introduced in the state of New Jersey by Senator Sandra B. Cunningham (NJ).
Why is this important as black and brown mothers? Media bombards us (and our children) with images that don’t reflect our daily interaction in our homes and immediate communities. In turn, we may reflect whether our natural texture is ‘acceptable’ in society or in the workforce. We ask ourselves, “Will our braids or protective hairstyle count against me [in the workforce]?” The social media blog, Professional Black Woman, questioned the association of special childhood occasions, including Easter Sunday church services and graduations, with straight hair. Representation matters! Consistent visualization of hair in various professional and educational spaces will help breakdown the negative stereotypes. Teaching children about various styles of beauty, from the hair to the physical features, reduces a monolith view of beauty. We want to teach our children to advocate against hair prejudice in the workplace and in public. Confronting microaggressions head-on limits verbal attacks and increases physical boundaries (think: don’t touch my hair!).
We are breaking the stigma associated with our hair. Beauty salons have an abundant supply of natural hair care products. Celebrities, like Tracey Ellis-Ross and Lupita Nyong'o, are rocking their natural locks proudly. While hair can be defined and refuted as ‘personal choice’ for some, black women are no longer having to make a choice between corporate America success and possible discrimination with our curly/kinky coils.