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  • Kandis Mascall

United States One Step Closer to Banning Hair Discrimination

Hair discrimination is still a real issue plaguing black Americans, but there is a bill in the works that could put an end to this form of prejudice. On September 21st, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the CROWN Act of 2020, a piece of legislation designed to ban discrimination, “based on a person's hair texture or hairstyle if that style or texture is commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.” The act includes discrimination that takes place in a professional and academic setting.

The bill is now in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee awaiting further deliberations. Even with this new federal law pending, a few states have taken it upon themselves to adopt their own versions of the CROWN Act. These states include Washington, California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.

However, there are some states who have filed and did not pass their version of the act. Below is a map illustrating where the United States stands with the CROWN Act on the state level.

According to the CROWN Act Coalition’s website, the CROWN Act was created in 2019 in partnership with personal care brand, Dove. CROWN is an acronym that stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair.”

According to a study conducted by Dove, called The CROWN Research Study, “Black women’s hair is 3.4x more likely to be perceived as unprofessional.”

This statistic is illustrated in the case, EEOC V. Catastrophe Management Solutions. The case centers around Chastity Jones, a Black woman in Alabama who was a refused a job offer because she declined to cut her dreadlocks in 2010. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued the employer on Jones’s behalf.

According to the case, “Catastrophe Management Solutions does not hire anyone, black or white, who uses an ‘excessive hairstyle [ ],’ a category that includes dreadlocks.”

The EEOC argued that a, “prohibition of dreadlocks in the workplace constitutes race discrimination because dreadlocks are a manner of wearing the hair that is physiologically and culturally associated with people of African descent,” as quoted in the case.

The trial court dismissed the case, and an appellate court refused to rehear the case citing, “the EEOC’s complaint did not allege—as required by our Title VII disparate-treatment precedent—that dreadlocks are an immutable characteristic of black individuals.”

In May of 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court also declined to review the case, thus ending Jones’s legal battle.

Seven months after the Supreme Court declined to review Jones’s case, the story of high school wrestler, Andrew Johnson, took the country by storm. On December 20, 2018, a local New Jersey sports reporter tweeted a video of Johnson, a wrestler at Buena Regional High School getting his dreadlocks cut in the middle of a match. The video went viral and has now been viewed more than 15 million times.

The impromptu haircut followed a white referee’s decree that Johnson either forfeit the match or cut his dreadlocks. Johnson chose the latter, sparking widespread outrage on his behalf. The referee was subsequently suspended.

These two examples are only a few of countless stories shared by Black Americans. However, there is a sense of hope with the possible passing of the CROWN Act of 2020. Even if the law is not adopted at the federal level, more states are filing for their own versions of the CROWN Act. Those states are Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and South Carolina.