California Becomes First State to Ban Discrimination Based on Hair

braids (Joern Pollex/Getty Images for Lena Hoschek)
Joern Pollex/Getty for Lena Hoschek

California became the first state to ban discrimination based on hair that is associated with race, thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday.

The law, SB 188, is also known as the Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural hair (CROWN) Act.

It was introduced by State Sen. Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), and declares that “kinky and curly hair” has been linked to blackness, and hence “to a badge of inferiority, sometimes subject to separate and unequal treatment.”

It also notes that certain hairstyles have been deemed “unprofessional,” adding: “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.”

It continues:

(c) Despite the great strides American society and laws have made to reverse the racist ideology that Black traits are inferior, hair remains a rampant source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences, especially for Black individuals.

(d) 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.

(e) Federal courts accept that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, and therefore protects against discrimination against afros. However, the courts do not understand that afros are not the only natural presentation of Black hair. Black hair can also be naturally presented in braids, twists, and locks.

(f) In a society in which hair has historically been one of many determining factors of a person’s race, and whether they were a second class citizen, hair today remains a proxy for race. Therefore, hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination.

The law establishes a category of “protective hairstyles” that “includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.”

Gov. Newsom signed the law in Sacramento, declaring: “In California, we celebrate the contributions of everyone – no matter where they are from, who they love, what language they speak, and, thanks to Senator Mitchell, no matter how they wear their hair.”

A statement from Newsom’s office noted: “Under this bill, employers would still be able to make and enforce certain policies, so long as they are valid and non-discriminatory, and have no disparate impact; for example, employers can still require employees to secure their hair for safety or hygienic reasons.”

The author sported a “Jew-fro” throughout much of college at Harvard University.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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