Discrimination against natural hair; Afros, braids, dreadlocks and twists has been on for decades in America but California is moving to outlaw the age long policy.
The new bill, which the Senate passed in April, amends anti-discrimination laws to include “traits historically associated with race” and “blackness”.
“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, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional,” the California bill states.
The bill, referred to as the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair), passed Thursday in the state Senate, 69 to 0. It has been sent to the Governor’s desk for signing into law.
“While we got no No votes, there were some people who chose to abstain,” Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, NPR Reported adding, “I have no idea why they abstained.”
Mitchell says she has received numerous letters from distraught constituents. “The sheer volume of women and men and parents of students who have been sent home because someone deems their braids, twists or locks were inappropriate for workplace settings, the sheer volume of people, suggests this clearly is a law whose time has come,” Mitchell said (while she was getting her hair groomed).
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She recalled the viral video of a black high school wrestler in New Jersey who was forced to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit a match.
And then there is Chastity Jones, a black woman who said she lost a job opportunity in Alabama because she refused to cut off her dreadlocks. A federal appeals court ruled in her case that dreadlocks were not an immutable characteristic of black people.
For decades, black employees have often reported unfair policies in workplace that describe natural hair as unhygienic and unprofessional. The US military had a ban on dreadlocks for women until 2017.