Hairstyle discrimination could be a federal crime after NJ wrestler was forced to cut off his dreadlocks

Remember when a New Jersey high school wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocks or lose a match?

The state legislature responded in December 2019 by making New Jersey the third state in the nation to ban discrimination based on someone’s hairstyle or hair texture. Five other states have passed similar laws since then.

And on Monday, two New Jersey congressmen, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12th Dist., proposed federal legislation blocking discrimination against hairstyles associated with race or gender. of national origin, including tightly coiled or tightly-curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, bantu knots and afros.

“Systemic racism takes many forms,” ​​Watson Coleman said. “One way is the discrimination and bias against ethnic and natural hair styles that contributes to higher levels of disciplinary actions against students of color in our schools.

“Dress codes that prohibit natural hair often result in suspensions, creating harmful rifts in their classroom continuity at best and giving students their first contact with the criminal justice system at worst. Students have enough to worry about without worrying that their own natural hair will cause them to miss class.

Booker originally introduced the bill in December 2019, a year after referee Alan Maloney told Buena High School student Andrew Johnson he couldn’t wrestle without a haircut. Johnson cut his hair. Maloney was subsequently suspended.

“Discrimination against black hair is discrimination against black people,” Booker said. “The implicit and explicit biases against natural hair run deep in workplace norms and in society at large and continue the legacy of dehumanizing black people. It’s a violation of our civil rights, and it happens every day across the country.

The federal legislation passed the House by voice vote in September 2020, but never made it to the Senate. It is known as Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN, Act.

Watson Coleman and three female co-sponsors, all members of the Congressional Black Caucus, asked Vice President Kamala Harristhe first African-American vice president and co-sponsor of Booker’s bill in the last Congress, to put the legislation “among your priorities.”

The New Jersey Congresswoman and the other two co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, Reps. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., and Yvette Clarke, DN.Y., asked the President of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. , and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., to also make the bill a priority. Schumer co-sponsored the bill in the last Congress.

“There are few steps as simple, or as impactful, to help ensure fair conditions for black women as this,” they wrote.

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Jonathan D. Salant can be attached to [email protected]. Follow him on @JDSalant.

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