California will become the first state to ban discrimination against natural hair, and we’re applauding

It is 2019, and while many black women are embracing their natural hair textures, some people still hold the biased belief that natural hair is not “professional.” In some schools and workplaces, dress codes still punish those who wear natural hairstyles like dreadlocks, Afros, or braids. California recently made an effort to stop this from happening with a law that prevents hair discrimination.

According to NBC News, California’s new legislation broadens the definition of “race” under state anti-discrimination laws to include “traits historically associated with race”—meaning that it will be illegal to discriminate against someone based on features like hair texture or style. On June 27th, California’s state assembly unanimously passed the bill. It will go to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk next, and if Newsom signs it, California will be the first state to ban natural hair discrimination.

"Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit 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," the bill's text reads, per NBC.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the bill, known as the CROWN Act, would protect both K-12 students in public schools and employees from discrimination. New Jersey and New York have proposed similar bills to the CROWN Act, according to the Times.

State Senator Holly Mitchell, who is black, wrote the legislation, and she told the Times that she wanted to challenge the many myths around black hair and help do away with standards of “professionalism” that keep black people out of the workplace.

"Eurocentric standards of beauty have established the very underpinnings of what was acceptable and attractive in the media, in academic settings and in the workplace," Mitchell said. "So even though African Americans were no longer explicitly excluded from the workplace, black features and mannerisms remained unacceptable and 'unprofessional.'"

California may be the first state to ban hair discrimination, but in February, the New York City Commission on Human Rights implemented guidelines to prevent the targeting of natural hairstyles. It’s encouraging to see change happening, but these laws are long overdue and we need more states to get on board. Natural hair is professional, and it’s time to recognize that.

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