A new law took effect in California with the start of the new year that seeks to ban discrimination against natural hair in workplaces and schools.
The legislation, dubbed the CROWN Act, officially adds hair-based discrimination associated with race to the state’s anti-discrimination law.
The measure states that workplace policies prohibiting natural hair "including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group."
"Acting in accordance with the constitutional values of fairness, equity, and opportunity for all, the Legislature recognizes that continuing to enforce a Eurocentric image of professionalism through purportedly race-neutral grooming policies that disparately impact Black individuals and exclude them from some workplaces is in direct opposition to equity and opportunity for all," it says.
“The history of our nation is riddled with laws and societal norms that equated 'blackness,' and the associated physical traits, for example, dark skin, kinky and curly hair to a badge of inferiority, sometimes subject to separate and unequal treatment,” it adds.
"This idea also permeated societal understanding of professionalism," it continues. "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."
According to NBC News, California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomThe Hill's Morning Report: Biden takes it on the chin Newsom denies parole for RFK assassin Why California needs a Latino state supreme court justice MORE (D), who signed off on the measure in July, said the issue got widespread attention in 2018 after the story of high school wrestler Andrew Johnson made national headlines.
In footage that went viral, Johnson could be seen getting his dreadlocks cut during a meet. According to the network, the New Jersey high school student had been told by a referee that he would not be allowed to wrestle in the match unless he cut his locks.
The incident drew widespread backlash online and eventually led to the referee’s suspension. New Jersey's governing body for the state's high school sports also had recommended that the local referee be fired shortly after the controversy.