During the House vote on a bill designed to protect Black people from negative treatment at school and work because of their natural hair, GOP congresswoman Lauren Boebert took the opportunity to slur Black hair.
Across the country, hair discrimination is a costly problem for Black people. Schools and workplaces often have dress codes and grooming policies in place that ban natural hairstyles, like afros, braids, bantu knots, and locs.
Children have been removed from their classrooms, and adults have been relieved of their employment due to these policies which are based on the idea that there is something “wrong” with Black people’s natural hair.
Despite these rules and laws being used almost exclusively against people with African-textured hair, House Republicans blocked legislation that would make it a federal crime to discriminate against people because of his or her hair style or texture.
The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN, Act seeks to block biased treatment against hair styles associated with race or national origin.
The vote was 235-188, with only 15 members of the GOP supporting the bill. Because the bill failed to get the two-thirds vote needed to pass under an expedited measure, it will have to return to the House floor under regular rules and will be able to pass with a simple majority. An outcome that appears likely.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey was disappointed in the failure of a 2/3 vote, which is customary for non-controversial matters, and says she’s undeterred, “House Republicans have chosen to give in to the climate of division and obstruction, and block the CROWN Act, a bill meant to end race-based hair discrimination, on the final day of Black History Month. Despite this temporary setback – and while I regret that Republicans chose to miss an opportunity to show unity against race-based discrimination – we will bring the CROWN Act back and pass it with a simple majority.”
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund Hair has long worked on this issue, and calls texture-based hair discrimination “an undue burden that polices Black identity and upholds white supremacy.” As there are no nationwide legal protections against hair discrimination, Black people too often are discriminated against and risk facing consequences at school or work for their natural hair. Or, they have to invest time and spend money to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards.
The CROWN Coalition is a community of almost 100 community and advocacy organizations that work to push for the passage of the CROWN Act in all 50 states, and to end hair discrimination.