In the week since “Hair Love” won the Oscar for best animated short, three states have taken up legislation that would outlaw discrimination against hair styles most commonly associated with African-Americans.
The legislatures of Colorado, Washington state and Minnesota all moved bills forward that would prevent African-Americans from being forced to conform to Eurocentric hair standards, as the Minneapolis Star Tribune put it, in order to get jobs and housing.
They were variations on the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair and is designed to ensure “protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Codes,” thecrownact.com states on that website.
The House of Representatives in both Colorado and Washington state passed bills prohibiting employers and schools from discriminating against people with styles such as dreadlocks, Afros, braids and twists, as Washington’s law words it. Colorado passed a version of the Crown Act itself, prohibiting discrimination based on hair texture, hair type, and styles “commonly or historically associated with race, such as braids, locs, twists, tight coils or curls, cornrows, Bantu knots, Afros and headwraps.”
The bills were then introduced in each state’s Senate, CNN reported. Earlier in the week, Minnesota introduced similar legislation. Kentuckyalso has such legislation pending, according to WKRC-TV.
Several cities and localities across the U.S. have also passed local restrictions on such discrimination, including New York and New Jersey.
In all, 22 states are considering such legislation.
The profile of the CROWN Act was heightened last Sunday, when “Hair Love” director Matthew Cherry and producer Gabrielle Union paid for Texas teen DeAndre Arnold and his mother to attend the Academy Awards. Arnold had been told to shear off his dreadlocks or be denied graduation at his Mont Belvieu high school.
Cherry spoke about the issue in his acceptance speech.
“ ‘Hair Love’ was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation, we wanted to normalize black hair, and there’s a very important issue out there, the CROWN Act,” Cherry said in his acceptance speech, according to The Root. “If we can help get this passed in all 50 states it will help stories like Deandre Arnold’s … stop to happen.”
“As black women, we are taught to feel like wearing our natural hair is something to be ashamed of, so we cover it up by flat-ironing it to make ourselves look like — I hate to say it — our white counterparts,” corporate employee Linda Garrett-Johnson told the Minneapolis Star Tribune Thursday.
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