California just banned discrimination against 'natural hair' – here's why

Louis Staples
Thursday 02 January 2020 17:00

A new California law has come into effect which seeks to ban discrimination against natural hair in workplaces and schools.

The legislation, called the CROWN Act, adds hair-based discrimination associated with race to the state’s anti-discrimination law.

Why is this so important?

Black people - particularly women - are frequently discriminated against because of their natural hair. This can be particularly harmful to those who, for example, lack the financial resources to get their hair altered. As well as being obviously wrong, it compounds economic inequality if people are discriminated against for their hair while seeking employment.

What does the law say?

It clearly states that workplace policies prohibiting natural hair, including "afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group".

"Acting in accordance with the constitutional values of fairness, equity, and opportunity for all, the Legislature recognizes that continuing to enforce a Eurocentric image of professionalism through purportedly race-neutral grooming policies that disparately impact Black individuals and exclude them from some workplaces is in direct opposition to equity and opportunity for all,"

Why is this so historic?

The California law acknowledges America’s history of equating “blackness” and physical attributes which are associated with black people as lesser.

"This idea also permeated societal understanding of professionalism,"

"Professionalism was, and still is, closely linked to European features and mannerisms, which entails that those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances."

Why did this law happen now?

According to NBC News, California governor Gavin Newsom said the issue got widespread attention in 2018 after the story of high school wrestler Andrew Johnson made national headlines. NBC reported the high school student had been told by a referee that he would not be allowed to wrestle in the match unless he cut his locks.

H/T: The Hill

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