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Booker unveils legislation for federal bill to ban discrimination against natural hair

Booker unveils legislation for federal bill to ban discrimination against natural hair
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Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (D) officially unveiled federal legislation this week that would ban discrimination based on hair textures and hair styles.

The legislation, titled the CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair), has been enacted in multiple counties and states across the country, from Maryland to California and New York. It bans discrimination based on hair that is commonly associated with a specific race or national origin, according to a Thursday statement.

Rep. Cedric RichmondCedric Levon RichmondSunday shows - Virus surge dominates ahead of fraught Thanksgiving holiday Richmond says GOP 'reluctant to stand up and tell the emperor he wears no clothes' Sunday shows preview: Biden transition, COVID-19 spike in spotlight MORE (D-La.) introduced companion legislation in the House, joined by Reps. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyGOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' Pelosi faces caucus divisions in Biden era Record number of Black women elected to Congress in 2020 MORE (D-Mass.), Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Barrasso to seek top spot on Energy and Natural Resources Committee | Forest Service finalizes rule weakening environmental review of its projects | Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Biden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Five actions Biden should take to build a more humane food system MORE (D-Ohio), and Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Top contender for Biden Defense chief would be historic pick Overnight Defense: 5 US service members killed in international peacekeeping helicopter crash in Egypt | Progressives warn Biden against Defense nominee with contractor ties | Trump executive order to ban investment in Chinese military-linked companies MORE (D-Calif.).

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"Discrimination against black hair is discrimination against black people," Booker said in the Thursday statement. "Implicit and explicit biases against natural hair are deeply ingrained in workplace norms and society at large. This is a violation of our civil rights, and it happens every day for black people across the country."

New Jersey Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, who is sponsoring legislation to make the term “race” in New Jersey discrimination laws inclusive of hair textures and styles, lauded Booker’s legislation. 

"As a New Jersey legislator and as a black woman who wears her hair natural, I'm proud to be a part of this movement to protect Americans from systemic discrimination based on racial traits such as hairstyles; and I welcome Senator Booker to the cause," she said in the statement this week. 

Black women are 50 percent more likely to be sent home from the workplace due to their hair, and 80 percent of black women feel they need to change their hair for their workplace, according to a study from Dove’s CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) initiative.

“For far too long, Black Americans have faced senseless forms of discrimination merely because of how they choose to wear their hair. As states begin to tackle this issue, it is long overdue for Congress to act,” Richmond said in the Thursday statement.

“From Louisiana to New Jersey, textured hair should never serve as a professional or educational impediment nor should it ever lead to a reprimand of consequence. Together, with this bill, we can ensure this form of discrimination no longer goes unchecked.”

In the statement Thursday announcing the legislation, Booker cited a viral incident last year in which a New Jersey referee forced a high school athlete to cut his dreadlocks on the spot or forfeit a wrestling match. The video sparked widespread outrage, and the referee was later barred from officiating any more matches.

He also referenced a Penn State football player who received a letter earlier this year calling his dreadlocks “disgusting,” as well as Gabrielle Union, who was reportedly fired from “America’s Got Talent” this past season and was repeatedly told that her hairstyles were “too black.”