Words by: Michelle Dartez
The CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” is “a law that bans hair discrimination based on race, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots.” This Act also addresses the United States’ history of anti-Black racism and the shortcomings of the previous anti-discrimination legislature. Conversations about the politicizing of black hair must continue and the group behind this law can ensure that policies are implemented.
“What am I going to do with my hair!” shouldn’t be a life altering decision. Black women have mastered the art of wearing and styling our hair for many occasions and professional settings. But for some of us our style choices are not considered acceptable in the workplace and have been the reason we might be fired or expelled even our kids expelled from school.
The CROWN Act is currently a law in the following states: California, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Washington and most recently Connecticut becoming the eighth state to sign this act into law recently. Nine states are currently considering the CROWN Act, including Georgia, Kansas, and Louisiana. In other states, the act has been introduced into the legislation but has not been passed as of yet.
With more Black women preferring to wear their hair natural, views have shifted, “… Where we used to break out backs, and quite often our strands, by trying to fit into a Eurocentric mold of beauty, many of us are now celebrating the very kinks and coils that we were taught to disown…” (Teen Vogue). That last statement hits home because when it came to holidays, church, and especially school pictures, straight hair was almost the requirement for many of us. To them, you weren’t putting enough into your overall appearance, compared to others’ expectations.
I have been natural for about six years now. Embracing my curls has been one of the best teaching moments in my life. As rewarding as it has been, I still face challenges when it comes to my professional life and wearing my hair in its natural state. I remember so many unnecessary comments regarding my hair, including being in a meeting and being asked if the braids I had in were my “real hair”.
Then you have those who constantly feel the need to touch your hair, which can come across more as petting as if you’re a pet. Even though it happens often, it’s not something we should get used to or accept as normal behavior. It doesn’t matter how “neat” your hair is styled, some people will still say it looks “unprofessional”. At the end of the day, we should be able to comfortably bring our full selves to work or school, without having to worry about how others will react to the hair on our heads.