Oregon's new CROWN Act explicitly prohibits raced-based hair discrimination

·2 min read

Oregon joined a number of states in 2021 passing legislation that prohibits race-based hair discrimination in schools and the workplace. That bill has now gone into effect.

House Bill 2935, known as the CROWN Act, stands for “creating a respectful and open world for natural hair” and enacts policies first introduced and passed in California in 2019.

Oregon’s version amends existing laws against discrimination based on race to include characteristics like hair texture and “protective hairstyles” such as braids, locs, bantu knots and twists. The new law allows anyone who believes they have experienced hair discrimination to file a written or verbal complaint against their workplace or school.

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“It is an act of self-love for the Black community to be able to show up at work and school in public places as ourselves,” one of the bill’s chief sponsors, Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas,, said after the bill was passed. “It’s time for people to be able to express themselves unapologetically.”

A total of 14 states have passed the CROWN Act or legislation inspired by it, according to the CROWN Coalition, a group of national organizations founded by Dove, National Urban League, Color of Change and the Western Center on Law & Poverty.

The movement to protect hairstyles and hair texture first emerged after a Black high schooler was forced to cut his dreadlocks during a wrestling match in 2018. Similar stories have hit national headlines in recent years.

In this image taken from a video on Dec. 19, 2018, Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson had his dreadlocks cut minutes before his match. Johnson, who is black, had a cover over his hair, but referee Alan Maloney, who is white, said that wouldn't be sufficient.
In this image taken from a video on Dec. 19, 2018, Buena Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson had his dreadlocks cut minutes before his match. Johnson, who is black, had a cover over his hair, but referee Alan Maloney, who is white, said that wouldn't be sufficient.

In 2020, a Black student in Texas was told he wouldn't be able to walk at graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks. And in March of 2021, a Black high school volleyball player in Portland was similarly required to cut beads from her hair in order to play. A couple months later, a high school softball player was similarly forced to cut her braids and remove her braids in North Carolina to participate in her senior night game.

“Discrimination based on hairstyle is rooted in racism,” Sen. Law Frederick, D-Portland, said in a statement when the bill passed. “To equate a protective hairstyle or wearing a natural hairstyle as an indicator of one’s professionalism or of one’s right to access opportunity is wrong. Black Oregonians should feel free to wear their hair any way they like without negative consequences.”

Dianne Lugo is a reporter at the Statesman Journal covering equity and social justice. You can reach her at dlugo@statesmanjournal.com, 503-936-4811 or on Twitter @DianneLugo.

This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Oregon's new CROWN Act explicitly prohibits hair discrimination

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