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California becomes first state to ban discrimination against natural hair

The Hill logo The Hill 7/4/2019 Aris Folley
California becomes first state to ban discrimination against natural hair © Getty Images California becomes first state to ban discrimination against natural hair

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed legislation into law on Wednesday making his state the first in the nation to ban discrimination against natural hair.

Senate Bill 188, which was recently passed by a unanimous margin in both the California State Assembly and Senate, will officially add hair-based discrimination associated with race to the state's anti-discrimination law.

The bill's text states that "the history of our nation is riddled with laws and societal norms that equated 'blackness,' and the associated physical traits, for example, dark skin, kinky and curly hair to a badge of inferiority, sometimes subject to separate and unequal treatment."

"This idea also permeated societal understanding of professionalism," the bill continues. "Professionalism was, and still is, closely linked to European features and mannerisms, which entails that those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional."

The bill, dubbed the CROWN Act, also states that workplace policies prohibiting natural hair "including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on Black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter Black applicants and burden or punish Black employees than any other group."

"Acting in accordance with the constitutional values of fairness, equity, and opportunity for all, the Legislature recognizes that continuing to enforce a Eurocentric image of professionalism through purportedly race-neutral grooming policies that disparately impact Black individuals and exclude them from some workplaces is in direct opposition to equity and opportunity for all," the bill adds.

Newsom called the bill's passage an "opportunity for California to lead" as the first state in the country to pass such legislation. He said he thinks Americans will see a "dozen plus states in the next year" follow in California's footsteps, adding, "I'd be surprised if they don't follow suit."

"You gotta change the culture, not just laws," Newsom said. "So it's nice to pass a law, but you gotta change people's minds, and we gotta execute that in a much deeper way."

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