Tempe law banning racial hair discrimination could go nationwide

A Tempe law preventing racial hair discrimination could soon be national law after it passes the United States House on Friday, March 18. Prior to Friday’s ruling, Tempe was one of only 33 cities and counties nationwide that already had Crown Act in place.

The Crown Act, which officially stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” prohibits discrimination based on hair race, specifically protecting hairstyles worn by black women, such as bantu knots, braids, cornrows and a plethora of other natural hairstyles.

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This is the second time the bill has been proposed in the US House, the first time in February, but it fell through due to GOP opposition. This time, the bill passed by a Democratic majority vote of 235 to 189.

Before it reached the United States House on March 18, in November 2021, the unanimous passage of the law by the Tempe African-American Advisory Committee has since created more workplace protections for those who have natural hairstyles and contributes to Tempe’s ongoing anti-discrimination initiatives.

“Tempe has always been progressive, but since it has a black mayor and a black police chief, I think they really try to embrace diversity, because we know that when we as black people do better , everyone does better,” Michelle Brooks said. Totress, president of the AAAC.

The act was introduced after analyzing the results of a 2019 study by The Joy Collective, an award-winning “Black and women-owned cultural ideas, marketing and advertising” firm.

They found that 80% of black women agreed with the statement that they felt the need to change their hair from its natural state to fit in at work. It also found that black women are 3.4 times more likely to have their hairstyles perceived as unprofessional and 1.5 times more likely to be fired from work because of their hair.

“I remember a time when I wouldn’t have dared to consider wearing locs, I’m almost 50. Now to be in a space where you’re recognized for the content of your character and you’re not so concerned if I have locs, makes a big difference,” says Paula Johnson-Hutchinson, Tempe’s AAAC secretary and recently retired hairstylist of 30 years.

Hair discrimination against black women dates back to the 1700s. Hair bun laws first appeared in Louisiana in the mid-1700s and stipulated by law that black women had to wrap their hair in hair buns or headdresses. public. This was because European or Spanish travelers arrived in Louisiana and were attracted to black women, which bothered well-to-do white women. In response, tignon laws have arisen in an effort to conceal natural hair and lessen this attraction.

While these laws waned in the 1800s, their long-lasting impact reverberated throughout the South and most of the country for years and set a precedent for racial hair discrimination.

Hutchinson is originally from Louisiana and has seen firsthand the lasting effects of the tignon laws. Her vast experience as a hairstylist has allowed her to witness firsthand the type of struggles black women have gone through over the years to find a hairstyle that will meet the demands of their workplace.

Likewise, natural hairstylist and AAAC member Wiletta Mitchell understands the importance of hair to black women.

“Hair is like our pride, our joy, like our babies. It’s like a necessity, like water is for our body. Passing this act is just an open door for black women to feel comfortable with themselves,” Mitchell said.