Georgia may soon become the fourth state in the U.S. to pass a law against hair discrimination after California, New York, and New Jersey.
On Thursday, Senator Tonya Anderson filed SB 286, known as the Crown Act, that would defend citizens wearing “braids, locks, twists, or other textured hairdressing historically associated with an individual’s race”. The “Crown Act” has similar legislation to California’s 2019 law that defines hair discrimination as a criminal act.
Anderson’s motives were supercharged after a House member approached her during the 2019 legislative session to tell her that her hair straightened looked much better and more professional without the braids that she had worn before. The senator still has not identified the woman, although it may be safe to assume that she was not African American. The senator told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “Our [African American’s] hair is an expression of who we are, and conforming is almost no longer the norm.”
In early August of 2019, Narvie J. Harris Theme School in Decatur posted a display to illustrate “inappropriate” hairstyles and haircuts, among those featured was full-length textured black hair. The deemed “appropriate” styles consisted of shorter hairstyles that did not reveal natural curl patterns. Later during that day, parents that attended the school’s orientation quickly noticed that all of the “inappropriate” images were that of black students. They were outraged and parents were outraged, and the issue quickly went viral. Unfortunately, Georgia is not the only state in the U.S. that has experienced situations like this.
Deandre Arnold, a Texas public high school student, was given in-school suspension in January this year after deciding not to cut his dreadlocks. He has threatened that he will not be allowed to attend graduation unless he cuts his hair. School officials claim that his hairstyle is not the cause but rather his hair length that is in violation of the school dress code. Arnold could tie his hair up with clips and rubber bands in order to abide by the rules; however, the school amended the handbook in December 2019 to forbid the use of those kinds of hair accessories by male students .
In Alabama, EEOC v. Catastrophe Management Solutions was a similar incident. In this court case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a suit on behalf of Chastity Jones, a black job applicant whose offer of employment was rescinded by Catastrophe Management Solutions because to its hair policy when she chose not to cut off her dreadlocks. Ultimately the courts ruled in favor of the company, declaring that EEOC failed to convince the judge that dreadlocks were linked to the African American race, which would have proved that Jones was fired because of her ethnicity .
In 2019, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that prohibited discrimination of hairstyles associated with race in response to the social outrage surrounding Buena Regional High School wrestler, Andrew Johnson. The young student was forced by a referee to immediately cut his locks or be disqualified from the competition.
These occurrences display how racism has exploited the grey areas of legislation. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, nationality, origin, or religion. Unlike, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Senate Bill 286 explicitly details and lists hairstyles that are primarily worn by the African American community and prohibits their discrimination.
Often times healthier, more natural looks are viewed as unprofessional, which suggests that “being black” is not allowed in places like corporate jobs or the school system. This is the issue that Sen. Tonya Anderson strives to remedy with SB 286, which will penalize those in violation.
Governor Murphy stated, “No one should be made to feel uncomfortable or be discriminated against because of their natural hair.”