House passes proposed hair discrimination bill after NJ wrestler forced to cut locs

Legislation to make discrimination based on hairstyle or hair texture a federal crime was passed in the US House of Representatives on Friday.

The measure was introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-12th Dist., after referee Alan Maloney told Buena High School student Andrew Johnson that he couldn’t wrestle locs.

“Natural black hair is often considered ‘unprofessional’ simply because it doesn’t conform to white beauty standards,” Watson Coleman said. “Discrimination against black hair is discrimination against black people.”

It passed, 235-189, with all but 14 Republicans voting no. All 10 New Jersey House Democrats backed the legislation while Reps. Jeff Van Drew, R-2nd Dist., and Chris Smith, R-4th Dist., voted against.

The bill blocks discrimination against hairstyles associated with race or national origin, including coiled or curly hairstyles, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, bantu knots and afros. It is known as Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN, Act.

After passing the House by voice vote in 2020, the measure was introduced on February 28 under fast-track procedures reserved for non-controversial bills that limited debate and required a two-thirds majority to pass.

But enough Republicans then voted no to prevent the supermajority needed for approval, forcing Democrats to introduce the bill under the usual rules.

The measure now goes to the US Senate, where Cory Booker has introduced similar legislation. US Senator Robert Menendez is one of 23 senators co-sponsoring the bill.

“In this country, the implicit and explicit biases against natural hair run deep in workplace norms and in society at large and carry on the legacy of dehumanizing black people,” Booker said after the vote in the House of Commons. Bedroom.

“No one should be harassed, punished or fired for their natural hairstyles that are true to themselves and their cultural heritage.”

New Jersey enacted its own law in December 2019 in response to the incident involving Johnson. The wrestler cut his hair. Maloney was suspended.

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

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