California becomes first US state to ban racial discrimination of natural hair

'This law protects the right of black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form'

Sabrina Barr
Friday 05 July 2019 10:22 BST
California becomes first US state to ban racial discrimination of natural hair

California has become the first state in the United States to ban the racial discrimination of natural hair in the workplace and in schools.

In April, Senate Bill 188, otherwise known as the "Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair" Act (the Crown Act) was passed by a unanimous vote in the American state's Senate.

Three months later, the legislation has come into effect, making it illegal to force workers and pupils to be discriminated against due to the way they style their hair.

Senator Holly Mitchell, who introduced the bill, stated that the introduction of the new law protects the right of black residents of California to "wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms".

The senator added that the Crown Act embodies "inclusion, pride, and choice".

On Wednesday 3 July, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed Senate Bill 188.

The governor expressed his gratitude towards Senator Mitchell for fighting for the bill banning natural hair discrimination to become a reality.

“In California, we celebrate the contributions of everyone – no matter where they are from, who they love, what language they speak, and, thanks to Senator Mitchell, no matter how they wear their hair,” the governor said.

The aim of the newly-enforced bill was to challenge "common-held myths about what constitutes professionalism in the workplace".

While speaking about the bill in April, Senator Mitchell explained how employees and pupils frequently face prejudice on account of the natural texture of their hair.

"Until very recently, a Google image search for, quote, 'unprofessional hairstyles', yielded only pictures of black women with their natural hair, or wearing braids or twists. Although disheartening, this fact was not surprising," the senator said.

The senator added that workplace policies are "far more likely" to discriminate against members of the black community than individuals of other races.

Senate Bill 188 is sponsored by a coalition between the National Urban League, the Western Centre on Law and Poverty, civil rights organisation Colour of Change and cosmetics company Dove.

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Esi Eggleston Bracey, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of North America Beauty and Personal Care at Unilever, celebrated the introduction of the new legislation in California.

“Dove is proud to be a part of changing the narrative for black women, girls and anyone with textured hair and we are excited to stand with the Crown Coalition and Senator Holly Mitchell to make a tangible impact in the state of California," Bracey stated.

“We are overjoyed to see Governor Newsom sign the Crown Act into law today, and are looking forward to continuing to drive legislative change in other states in the months to come.”

Similar legislation banning the racial discrimination of natural hair has been proposed to the US states of New York and New Jersey.

In February, New York City, which comprises of five boroughs, barred the discrimination of natural hair.

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