House passes CROWN Act to end discrimination against natural hairstyles

Stacy M. Brown/NNPA Newswire senior national correspondent | 3/24/2022, 6 p.m.
Democratic Congresswoman Jahana Hayes of Connecticut sounded off to critics of legislation that would allow individuals the freedom to express …

Democratic Congresswoman Jahana Hayes of Connecticut sounded off to critics of legislation that would allow individuals the freedom to express themselves by how they wear their hair.

“Natural hair should be worn without fear of discrimination,” Rep. Hayes asserted moments after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the CROWN Act, banning hair-related discrimination. The measure passed March 18 on a 235-189 vote, largely along party lines. Fourteen Republicans joined all 221 Democrats in supporting the measure. Introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey Democrat, the acronym CROWN stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The measure outlaws discrimination based on an individual’s texture or style of hair.

Rep. Coleman cited the case of Andrew Johnson, the New Jersey high school wrestler who in 2018 was forced to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his wrestling match.

Rep. Coleman

Rep. Coleman

The bill, which now heads to the U.S. Senate, states that “routinely, people of African descent are deprived of educational and employment opportunities” for wearing their hair in natural or protective hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots or Afros.

Republicans strongly opposed the measure, and some used race-baiting words in expressing their opposition.

“No to the nappy hair act,” Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia railed.

Civil rights groups applauded the passage of the measure.

“Passage of the CROWN Act by the House of Representatives moves our na- tion one step closer to federal protection for Black women, men and children from discrimination across the country simply because of their natural hair or hairstyle,” stated Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

“We urge the Senate to quickly take up this important legislation, which would ensure that Black students are not prohibited from attending or participating in school events because of their natural hair, that Black employees are not subject to pretextual firing or negative employment actions because of their hair texture or style, and that Black people are accorded dignity and respect in choosing to embrace a natural hairstyle.”

Mr. Hewitt said restrictions on Black hairstyles and textures in workplaces and school campuses are relics of white supremacy.

“This explicit protection against racial discrimination based on hairstyles is long overdue,” he remarked.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, first introduced the Senate ver- sion of the CROWN Act in 2019.

In a statement, Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Black women and girls face discrimination each day at their workplaces and schools because of their natural hair.

“So today, I proudly voted yes on the CROWN Act to finally end race-based hair discrimination once and for all,” Rep. Beatty said. “It’s simple: Discrimination against Black hair is discrimination based on race. I look forward to swift passage of this critical legislation in the Senate and standing with President Biden as he signs it into law.”

Rep. Beatty then delivered a message to Black youths.

“To every young Black girl and boy, I say to you, your hair — from your kinks to your curls, from your ’fros to your fades, from your locs to your braids — is a crown,” she asserted. “Be proud of your hair and know the Congressional Black Caucus is fighting for you.”