Louisiana House committee proposes bill banning hair discrimination

Louisiana’s House Committee on Civil Law and Procedure introduced a bill Monday that would ban discrimination based on certain hairstyles.

House Bill 41, sponsored by Rep. Candace Newell, D-New Orleans, would amend the Discrimination Act to include “natural, protective, or cultural hairstyle.” This includes afros, dreadlocks, braids, and other styles that have cultural significance or are meant to protect hair texture.

Newell said protective styles are especially important in Louisiana because of the humidity.

“Hair discrimination is rooted in the belief that straight hair is ultimately cleaner, neater, or more professional, whereas textured hair is the opposite,” Newell said.

The bill passed 8-6, with two Republicans, Rep. Nicholas Muscarello Jr. of Hammond and Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville, voting with Democrats to approve it.

Newell said the bill would not only protect black people from discrimination.

“In an area that I represent, I have several white gentlemen who have nice dreadlocks, and I think they should be protected just like an African-American man or woman who has dreadlocks,” Newell said.

Newell pointed out that some people who undergo cancer treatment see their hair regrow with a different texture.

Rep. Larry Frieman, R-Abita Springs, took issue with wording that the definition of protected styles includes “but is not limited to afros, dreadlocks, twists, locs, braids, cornrow braids, Bantu knots, curls, and hairstyles. to protect hair texture or for cultural significance.

Frieman asked to know what other styles might be included.

Newell said she would remove that sentence if she convinced Frieman to vote for the bill.

“I’m more than willing to take that point if it makes you feel comfortable,” Newell said. “I don’t know what other protective styles might arise. We are still developing.

Frieman voted against the bill.

Rep. Sam Jenkins, D-Shreveport, spoke in favor of the bill.

“There is no right or wrong discrimination,” Jenkins said. “All of this is bad. And we have to make sure that we cover all possible bases. »

Tyler Sanchez, an intern at Citizen She United, a political group that advocates for issues affecting black women, said “the first thing that comes to mind when we wake up is our presentable hair, how are we be seen in our place of work and in our educational establishments?

He said another issue is “really just the toll on our mental health”.

Piper Hutchinson is a reporter for the LSU Manship School News Service.

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