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CROWN Act: What the law is and what proponents say it will do



CNN

A Texas high school policy banning braided or twisted hair has, according to his mother, stopped a teenager from going to school and brought renewed attention to the CROWN Act.

Dyree Williams, 17, from East Bernard, Texas, is just one of many black Americans who have felt discriminated against over their hair.

Proponents say the CROWN Act would help people like Williams.

The CROWN Act stands for creating a respectful and open world for natural hair.

The bill would protect against skew based on hair texture and protective styles, including locs, cornrows, twists, braids, bantu knots and afros.

The bill, which is being debated in Congress, will ban racial-based hard discrimination in employment and for those participating in federally supported programs, housing programs and public housing.

The bill passed the U.S. House last month, but must be approved by the U.S. Senate before being sent to President Joe Biden’s desk.

“Many people are not aware of racial discrimination,” said Esi Eggleston Bracey, who heads Unilever’s beauty and personal care portfolio and co-founder of the CROWN Coalition, which advocates legislation.

There are “implicit and explicit biases” against natural hair “deeply rooted in workplace norms and society as a whole,” New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, a Senate sponsor of the CROWN Act, said in a statement.

Although existing federal law prohibits racial discrimination, “our current legislation or interpretation of it is inadequate, so additional protection is needed,” Eggleston Bracey told CNN.

She raised the case of Williams in Texas, saying there was “no right of appeal for him” in a state without the protection included in the CROWN Act.

Policies, such as the high school dress code policy that prevented Williams from wearing his hair braided or twisted, “do not give us access to employment, it is economic empowerment, it does not give us access to education, which is knowledge to better ourselves,” said Eggleston Bracey. “People need to understand that this is not superficial. … This is identity. And it puts us, it puts black people under the microscope and exposes us to humiliation, unfair inspection, which is undeserved. And all of that wears on our self-esteem. ”

Black women are 80% more likely to think they need to change their natural hair to “fit in the office”, according to a 2019 study commissioned by personal care brand Dove, a co-founder of the CROWN coalition. The same study showed that black women’s hair was over three times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional.

“Natural black hair is often considered ‘unprofessional’, simply because it does not conform to white beauty standards,” New Jersey Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman, the bill’s sponsor in the House, said in a statement. “Discrimination against black hair is discrimination against black people.”

Proponents of the CROWN Act say it would prevent a major trend across the United States, with more and more black students saying they were being punished for their hairstyles.

The problem lies in the policies, say experts, who do not necessarily take into account an increasingly diverse group of students, to the detriment of mostly black and biracial school children.

As CNN previously reported, there have been a number of high-profile cases in recent years in which black students have received punishment for their hairstyles.

In Williams ‘case, the new high school he moved to in February in East Bernard, Texas, had a dress code policy in his handbook that states that “boys’ hair must not extend under the eyebrows, under the tops of the ears, or under a conventional stand-up shirt collar, and shall not exceed an inch difference in the length of the hair on the side to the length of the hair on the top. ”

The handbook, which has been removed from the district’s website, goes on to say: “This includes but [is] not limited to high hairstyles, bangs, and long hair dangling over shaved sides or shaved back of head. This also includes mullets and mullets under manufacture. Braided hair or corn rows will not be allowed. No extremes in hairstyles. ”

CNN made several attempts to reach East Bernard High School and the school district, but has not heard back.

In 2020, Louisiana senior school, Asia Simo, was fired from her school’s cheerleading team after she accumulated inconvenience of getting her hair out of her uniform, leading to her final dismissal.

That same year in Texas, high school senior DeAndre Arnold was told he could not pass the exam unless he cut his dreadlocks and complied with the school district’s dress code, which says male students’ hair should be shorter than the top of a T-shirt collar. .

In 2019, an elementary school in Georgia came under fire after a hairdresser shared photos that the school used to show “appropriate” and “inappropriate” hairstyles to students.

And in 2018, Andrew Johnson, a black high school wrestler in New Jersey, was told by a referee to cut his dreadlocks off because it was not in line with league rules or losing a match.

Most school administrators and school boards cite policies and rules as justification for their actions and maintaining their rules are not intended to be discriminatory.

Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a speech in March: “For far too long, black girls have been discriminated against and criminalized for the hair that grows on our heads and the way we move. through and appear in this world. ”

She added: “Whether you are a student in a classroom, employed in the workplace or the next Supreme Court justice or speaker [tempore]you deserve to appear as your full self and tilt your crown with your head high. ”

So far, 15 states have and more than 40 municipalities have adopted their versions of the KRONE Act. California was the first state to pass legislation in 2019, according to the CROWN Coalition. The US Virgin Islands this month became the first US territory to pass the bill.

Last month, the Democratic-led U.S. House passed the federal version of the CROWN Act in a 235-189 votes, with 14 Republicans joining the Democrats to approve the bill. The fate of the bill in the 50-50 Senate is still unclear.

Republican opponents of the law have said that federal law already covers this form of discrimination and that Democrats should focus on other issues, such as inflation and high gas prices.

The Biden administration has said it “strongly supports” the CROWN Act and “looks forward to working with Congress to pass this legislation and ensure that it is implemented effectively.”

“State law, in parallel with federal law, actually provides more coverage, it ensures that even small businesses are covered, not just the larger companies,” Eggleston Bracey told CNN, adding that state action “creates even more momentum for the federal “. legislation.”

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