The House passes The CROWN Act, which bars race-based hair discrimination

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed The CROWN Act, a bill that will ban race-based hair discrimination at workplaces, federal programs, and public accommodations. I didn’t know CROWN was an acronym, but it is and it stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The bill passed in the House a vote of 235-189 and goes to the Senate next, where hopefully it will pass as well.

Hair discrimination has existed forever and this bill has been a long time coming after the issue has gained momentum in recent years. A few years ago, the US Army lifted its blatantly racist grooming policy. Several prominent Black celebrities like Gabrielle Union and Keke Palmer did a PSA to promote the CROWN Act, and even John Oliver got in on it with a segment about how “Black hair shouldn’t be judged by white people’s comfort.” Some states have already implemented their own laws, but with the CROWN Act this policy change would be national.

Congressional action on race-based hair discrimination comes after years of advocates pushing for policy change at the national level.

Several states have already implemented their own versions of the CROWN Act. On Thursday, Massachusetts became the latest state to pass a local ban on hair discrimination.

“Hair discrimination is rooted in systemic racism, and its purpose is to preserve white spaces,” the NAACP says. “Policies that prohibit natural hairstyles, like afros, braids, bantu knots, and locs, have been used to justify the removal of Black children from classrooms, and Black adults from their employment.”

A 2019 study conducted by the JOY Collective said Black women were 80% more likely to feel pressure to change their hairstyles in order to fit in at the office.

Federal protection is still needed, the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund said. That extra mile would give Black people a legal safety net from consequences at school or work for their natural hair.

More than a decade in the making

A prior attempt at taking hair discrimination complaints to court failed.

In May 2010, Chastity C. Jones, who was hired to work as a customer service representative with Catastrophe Management Solutions in Alabama, lost her job offer after she refused a human resources request for Jones to cut her dreadlocks.

A lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against CMS ultimately failed. An Alabama district court ruled CMS’s refusal to hire Jones because she wore dreadlocks didn’t violate federal civil rights law.

A narrow Democratic majority in the Senate may not be enough to get the CROWN Act approved despite President Biden expressing strong support for the bill.

The White House said, “The President believes that no person should be denied the ability to obtain a job, succeed in school or the workplace, secure housing, or otherwise exercise their rights based on a hair texture or hairstyle.”

[From NPR]

I can’t believe that lawsuit failed in Alabama of all places… Anyway, it’s mind-boggling to me that a workplace could engage in such obviously discriminatory behavior. And I’m glad some protections will finally be in place. The only request about hair that any workplace should make should be to wear a hairnet if you’re preparing food or something like that. Beyond a dress code, I can’t imagine how a comment like that on your personal appearance must feel in a work context. I’ve never had an issue like that in any of my jobs, but that might be by virtue of living in New York or my particular industry. Like, my colleagues have purple hair and roll up their shirtsleeves to show off their tattoo sleeves so no one is worried about natural hair, except to ask if I used a bun donut to get my bun so big and perfect.

But just in case anyone thinks this bill is unnecessary, here’s a recent example. About a week ago, my aunt forwarded me an Instagram and petition with a story about young man named Jacob who is homeschooled through Abeka Christian Academy. It seems that a school assistant named Karen (seriously) reached out to Jacob’s mother about the graduation ceremony because she “noticed” from his photo that his hair doesn’t meet the requirements for marching at graduation. Those requirements specify “no braids, dreadlocks, buns, or ponytails.” Karen asked for confirmation that Jacob would abide by the hair guidelines by graduation. After Jacob’s mother brought attention to this, the school simply removed the reference to braids and dreadlocks, however the requirements remain the same. The CROWN Act wouldn’t apply in time for this school, but this shows why it is necessary and hopefully the public pressure will affect the school so they let this young man walk.

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18 Responses to “The House passes The CROWN Act, which bars race-based hair discrimination”

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  1. Nikki says:


    • Jan90067 says:

      YES! The ONLY requirement should be that hair is clean, and as Peridot said, if in food services, pulled back and/or netted. I *can* understand that, depending on your business, you may not want someone with an ombre-spiked Mohawk at your front desk, but that’s another issue. Not someone’s natural born hair.

  2. Cathy says:

    “Black hair shouldn’t be judged by white people’s comfort.”

    Amen to this!

    Being a long way away from the US I’m still learning, and probably will keep on learning for the rest of my life, but there are 3 things which shock me… 1 is that black people have not been able to wear their hair the way they want to wear it. 2 is the gun violence and 3 is that infant mortality and mother mortality is so much higher for women of colour in the US.

    I hope that one day they will change too? Thank you to the people who have brought the CROWN Act into being.

  3. Steph says:

    Hi @peridot! Nice to meet you! What is your Twitter?

    Anyway, I’m half Black and half white. I have curly hair but it veers more white texture wise. I’ve got wash and go hair. I honestly can just not do it if I feel like it. The fact that I can go into work without grooming but a Black person who displays their natural hair with consequences is disgusting. Hopefully the CROWN act makes it all the way through.

    • Green Desert says:

      Same background and hair situation for me, Steph. I know what it’s like to be a woman of color but still have hair privilege, if that makes sense. Anyway, his is an issue that has long bothered me and I too hope the CROWN Act makes it all the way through. Also – Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair was so eye-opening for me!

  4. Joanna says:

    I hope it passes. Not fair that everyone has to accommodate to white hair standards.

  5. T says:

    I hope this bill passes. The fact that anyone has to fight at a national level to have the freedom to wear their natural hair, express their styles, express their heritage, is so tragic. But it needs to be done.

  6. Bettyrose says:

    The comments I saw on an article yesterday exemplified why this is necessary. One crusty old white guy was like “Fine. I’ll just wear a green mohawk to work from now own if we have no restrictions on hairstyles.” That’s the guy who thinks his comfort is all that matters.

  7. Enid says:

    This makes me so happy. We tried to get one passed in our state but the mostly white, male, conservative legislators don’t care.

  8. Mireille says:

    This is so maddening, stupid and ridiculous. Have we devolved so much as a nation that we need to protect people’s rights to wear their hair the way they want, make reproductive choices as they want, read the books that they we want, etc.? We have allowed a racist minority to control the narrative of this country, allowing laws to be passed that hinders basic human rights progress. OR we are being “forced” to pass laws to protect what should be inalienable rights that should have never been questioned, much less judged and even less prevent someone from getting a job. I’m waiting for a truck convoy to protest these transgressions.

    I don’t recognize the country that I live in anymore.

    • bettyrose says:

      Devolved? This problem isn’t new and is just one part of the systemic racism that has plagued our nation since its founding. The legislation is a small step in the right direction.

      • Jan90067 says:

        Exactly. They’ve never left, just felt free enough to slither out from under their slimy rocks and into full sunlight to perpetuate their hate and racism.

    • Jan90067 says:

      Exactly. They’ve never left, just felt free enough to slither out from under their slimy rocks and into full sunlight to perpetuate their hate and racism.

  9. Nicegirl says:

    Finally!!! It’s about time.

  10. Chantal says:

    This pleases me immensely! Its sad and troubling that there’s a question as to whether or not it will pass the Senate where we have such a slim majority. The number of House Republicans who voted against it is so disappointing and disgusting! I just started wearing my hair naturally a couple of years ago. I could have never done this at any of my previous workplaces where i was the only highly educated African-American woman. This is wonderful though because even a little progress is still progress!

  11. meli says:

    If this is shocking, surprising, horrifying to you…please learn more. THere’s a ton on instagram at the moment.
    This IS f*cking disgusting and tbh a joke, but for me (mixed person with hair that is truly black) it has been my life. Every day.
    Things like this may seem small, but imagine all the opportunities black people have been denied or didn’t even pursue because of this discrimination.
    I accommodated white norms most of my life by straightening and having braid extensions. So basically my whole life I existed with the deep feelings of ME BEING ME not being good. That shame is so deep allowing it to surface is frightening to me at this stage of my life.

    So white people, spend a little bit of time imagining this existence. Imagine being told you have to perm your hair monthly to just pursue the things you want.

    Instead of posting about how absurd this is (yes, we all know), do a deeper dive into why this is so.

  12. Robert Phillips says:

    This bill will do nothing to help the problem. It will just make the HR people stop asking about their hair. They just won’t hire you in the first place. You won’t know if it’s because of your hair or something else. I would also guess the guy who asked the woman to cut her dreds isn’t still in that position. I don’t know how to fix the problem. The only way I see it changing is for more people with natural hair to become the owner or CEO of the companies.

    • LaraW” says:

      You have missed the point. If passed into law, it will allow Black employees to start wearing their hair naturally in the workplace. That will make a big fuckin difference.