Presidential hopeful and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is officially joining the fight against hair discrimination. While California and New York have passed legislation this year banning discrimination based on hair (particularly targeting hairstyles and hair types associated with people of African descent and with Afro textured hair), Senator Booker is pushing to have the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act (penned by Senator Holly J Mitchell) taken to the federal level. U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives, and is joined by Representatives Ayanna Pressley , Marcia Fudge, and Barbara Lee.
This comes after several incidences of hair discrimination against Black people have been reported in the news and on social media this past year, including the most recent firing of Gabrielle Union from her position as a judge on America’s Got Talent for wearing hairstyles that were considered “too Black” for viewers.
“Discrimination against Black hair is discrimination against Black people. 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,” said Senator Booker.
“You need to look no further than Gabrielle Union, who was reportedly fired because her hair was ‘too black’—a toxic dog-whistle African Americans have had to endure for far too long. No one should be harassed, punished, or fired for the beautiful hairstyles that are true to themselves and their cultural heritage.”
After the passing of the CROWN Act in California and New York (and also Montgomery County, MD), several states began to consider similar legislation, including Booker’s home state of New Jersey. Senator Booker’s office cited findings from the CROWN research study, which was commissioned in partnership with Dove, as evidence that hair discrimination remains a barrier of professional advancement.
“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,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight who is sponsoring New Jersey Bill A-5564, which amends New Jersey’s Law against discrimination to include the term race as inclusive of hair texture and protective hairstyles.
“I applaud Senator Booker for amplifying our charge in New Jersey to advocate for those nationally who have been forced to change their hair in order to appeal to Euro-centric standards as a condition to pursue economic advancement,” McKnight continued.
The CROWN Coalition is still collecting signatures for its petition to lawmakers across the country. You can go the official site to sign the petition, check out the legislation in California, New York, and New Jersey, and find your state representative.