Jordan Winder wanted to attend St. Augustine High School, a private, all-boys Catholic school in New Orleans.
Although his father was enrolled in the school at Jordan’s age, the 15-year-old ended up attending public school because his dreadlocks went against St. Augustine’s “grooming policy,” which specifically bans the style as well as hair that is longer than 1 inch, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“I decided to grow my hair at a young age. Just to stand out, to be different,” Jordan told the SPLC. “I never really liked having a fade or a bush. I just decided to grow my hair out. I just couldn’t go to school where I wanted. It made me feel pretty disappointed.”
Stories like Jordan’s are not unusual.
That’s why a growing number of voices are expressing support for the CROWN Act, which would “prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s texture or style of hair,” the bill states. CROWN is the term being used for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2020,” according to bill H.R. 5309.
The bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives this month after it was introduced by Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) in December.
“For far too long, Black Americans have faced senseless forms of discrimination merely because of how they choose to wear their hair,” said Richmond, according to Sen. Cory Booker’s website. “As states begin to tackle this issue, it is long overdue for Congress to act. From Louisiana to New Jersey, textured hair should never serve as a professional or educational impediment nor should it ever lead to a reprimand of consequence. Together, with this bill, we can ensure this form of discrimination no longer goes unchecked.”
Gabrielle Union was ousted from her position as a judge on “America’s Got Talent” in 2019 after she was told by executives her hair was “too black,” Glamour reported.
Similar legislation has already been passed in seven states, including Washington, New York, California, Colorado, Virginia and Maryland, The Hill reported. Laws banning discrimination based on an individual’s natural hair became more widespread after a study commissioned by the haircare company Dove revealed that Black women are 1.5 times “more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair,” the study says.
“We deserve to show up in the world just as we are,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), who is one of the 63 co-sponsors of the bill, tweeted. “Passing the #CROWNAct brings us one step closer to affirming our dignity and protecting our rights.”
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) September 22, 2020
“For far too long, Black women have been penalized for simply existing as themselves - that ends today,” Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), another co-sponsor, tweeted. “This passage is long overdue, but an important step forward to combat racial discrimination.”
For far too long, Black women have been penalized for simply existing as themselves—that ends today.
The House just passed the CROWN Act to end hair discrimination.
This passage is long overdue, but an important step forward to combat racial discrimination. https://t.co/v4D76QZT6H
— Rep. Ilhan Omar (@Ilhan) September 21, 2020
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-TX) also co-sponsored the bill and expressed her feelings on the bill’s passage on Twitter.
“I’ve been rocking my crown for decades, and everybody else should feel empowered to rock theirs too,” she said.
P.S. - The CROWN Act, which I introduced with @RepPressley, @RepRichmond, @RepMarciaFudge, and @SenBooker protects people from discrimination for wearing their natural hair. I've been rocking my crown for decades, and everybody else should feel empowered to rock theirs too.
— Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee) August 19, 2020
The bill now goes to the Senate before it can be made law, although a similar bill introduced by Booker (D-NJ) never advanced in the chamber, according to Congress’ website.
“It is the sense of Congress that … a clear and comprehensive law should address the systematic deprivation of educational, employment, and other opportunities on the basis of hair texture and hairstyle that are commonly associated with race or national origin,” Bill S.3167 states.
Those who oppose the bill believe discrimination based on “excessive hairstyles is not actually the same thing as discriminating on the basis of race,” Gov Track says.
“Odds of passage are low in the Republican-controlled chamber,” Gov Track says in reference to the Senate.