California Bill Bans Discrimination Against Natural Hairstyles

California’s state Senate passed a bill on April 22 banning racial discrimination against individuals with natural hair. Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act (CROWN Act) will stop employers and schools from discriminating against people with natural hair and hairstyles like twists, afros, and braids.

Los Angeles Senator Holly J. Mitchell, who introduced the bill, told the Senate on Monday that the bill would “help dispel myths and educate those who need it about the unique qualities of Black hair and texture and the Black hair experience.” Mitchell said the CROWN Act would also “challenge common-held myths about what constitutes professionalism in the workplace.”

Speaking to the Senate, Mitchell noted that a Google image search of the term “unprofessional hairstyles” showed Black women with natural hairstyles until recently. The images, “although disheartening," were "not very surprising.” “Many Black employees, including your staff… will tell you, if given the chance, that the struggle to maintain what society has deemed a ‘professional image’ while protecting the health and integrity of their hair remains a defining and paradoxical struggle in their work experience, not usually shared by their non-Black peers,” Mitchell said, according to a press release. “It is 2019. Any law that sanctions a job description that immediately excludes me from a position, not because of my capabilities or experience but because of my hair, is long overdue for reform.”

The bill passed unanimously with a 37-0 vote and will move forward to the state Assembly, according to NBC News. “CA Senate today approved 37-0 my bill to end discrimination against Black workers and students who choose to wear their natural CROWN,” Mitchell tweeted on Monday. Unilever executive Esi Eggleston Bracey said in a statement that the company is “thrilled” to see the act passed through the Senate.

“As a proud member of the CROWN Coalition, Dove is committed to impacting the lives of all of the people we serve. We are thrilled to see that the California Senate passed SB 188, and look forward to continuing to drive equity and fairness for all women and men, particularly around hair inclusivity,” said Eggleston Bracey. In February, New York City outlawed the discrimination of Black hair, stating that Black People have the right to have natural hair and hairstyles such “as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.”

Black people not only face hair discrimination in the workplace and school but also in airports. A report by ProPublica this month found that full-body scanners in airports across the US could spark false alarms for Black women with natural hair. A complaint issued five years ago forced the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to improve training, but Black women are still being stopped for hair pat-downs.

Erika Wilson, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, previously told The North Star that she is frequently stopped by TSA. The last time she had her hair searched by a TSA agent was when she was traveling from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to Washington, DC, for an academic conference. She said an agent selected her for extra screening because her hair had reportedly set off the scanner.

“I would say that on average I am stopped eight out of 10 times that I travel,” Wilson previously said. “The search is usually of the crown of my head all the way down.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.