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The Importance of the CROWN Act

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Illustration of black women captioned "Crown Act"

Whether you proudly wear locs, braids, afros, twist out, or any hairstyle that signifies our Black identity, unfortunately, in the United States, Canada, and the UK, such hairstyles have been highly policed. Many know Black hair is revered for it's total uniqueness and creativity and even (concurrently denounced) for the supposed aggression associated with having naturally kinky or coiled hair from other races.

In 2019, the CROWN Act was finally engaged into a full and understood law, now in seven different states: California, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, and Maryland, extended to municipalities Cincinnati as well as Montgomery County. A further Twenty-three states have introduced CROWN legislation, including Georgia, Florida, and Arizona.

The CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural hair) Act is a law started in California that provides protection to those who face race based hair discrimination . The CROWN act protects individuals from being let go, fired or excluded from schools and places of business due to the style of their hair, as it represents their uniqueness, culture, race and religion.

I must say, we’ve certainly come a long way from the 18th century when women of color with a creole or African background, were forced to cover their hair with a headscarf to mark their enslaved status or the repeated failed legal attempts in the supreme court (1981) to ban hair discrimination.

I hope that such law is also spread to our schools, where the patrolling and denigration of black women begin all too promptly. Such a brave act could guarantee that young girls do not have the combined weight of coiffing their textured hair into unrealistic Eurocentric ideals instead of concentrating on their education.

The CROWN Act offers a chance to end this antiquated, biased attitude and tell all Black people with textured hair that those cells arising from their scalp should nevermore be seen as an attack on others. Black hair should not affect a person’s circumstances, opportunities, or their pursuance of peace.

Unfortunately, it’s a very different story and very much hidden in Canada, in regards to the cases that happen in our own country. Regardless of whether it is a multi-melting pot topic or not, there’s a bias regarding women who showcase their natural hair and their style of choice. There have been cases of young women and children being sent home due to their hair texture being too “poofy,” which is sometimes considered unprofessional and studies have shown the total bias toward Black women and their hair, even from our community. One in five Black women feel tension, uncomfortableness, and social pressure to straighten their hair or alter its texture chemically. I hope the CROWN Act will someday extend to Canada.

Let’s all remember the song created and performed by India Irie, “I am not my hair.” Yes, representation matters, and loving ourselves is a must, but we are so much more than the hair on our head.

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