By Kayla Greaves, In Style
When I first heard the news of the CROWN Act just over a year ago, I was torn.
On one hand, I was relieved that being chastised for wearing my hair as it naturally grows from my scalp would (hopefully) soon be a thing of the past.
On the other, I was frustrated.
While the importance of bringing the act to law will never be lost on me, I constantly wrestle with the fact that even in 2020, we’re still in a place where we need it at all.
It’s not news to me that racism is the number one pandemic plaguing not only in the U.S., but the entire globe. And no matter how many people have tried to gaslight me over the years, no one can tell me that the innate bias against Black people doesn’t trickle into every factor of our lives — including the erratic rules surrounding how we can and cannot wear our natural hair in certain spaces.
There’s zero scientific basis around the ideal that there is something inherently “wrong” with afro-textured hair. Yet for literal centuries, our coils have been politicized and policed in the U.S., namely by the Tignon laws of 1786 — which required Black women to cover their hair in public — and has perpetuated this level of racism we’re still facing hundreds of years later.
However, with the second wave of the natural hair movement already transitioning us to a greater place of self-acceptance, and giving us the boost we need to challenge both the people and spaces that deem our hair as “unruly,” “wild,” or “unprofessional,” the passing of the CROWN Act in the Senate could very well end hair discrimination as we know it.
We’re so close to living in a country where little Black kids can go to school and not be reprimanded because their braids and locs don’t “fit” with the school’s arbitrary dress codes. We’re so close to being able to enter our workplaces with our ‘fros picked out to the heavens on one day, and twists down to our butts the next, without having to feel uneasy when we walk through the door (or enter our next Zoom call with video on). We’re so close to being able to celebrate just the possibility of freedom — at least in this regard.
Yet, the fact that it has taken so much and so long to get to this point is not lost on me — and plenty of other Black women across the nation have similar sentiments.
That’s why I asked them to reach out to me to share their thoughts on the House passing the CROWN Act, and what’s yet to come.
Some, like me, we’re torn…
“I’m upset that it took a federal law to make this happen. I’m also relieved to finally end the ‘should I wear my natural hair to this interview’ debate. So, there’s that.” — @MotherChronic via Twitter
“I only wish this came sooner. Been discriminated [against] for far too long in white spaces over hair.” — @enevontease via Instagram
Others were understandably frustrated or skeptical…
“It’s disheartening that our beautiful hair had to even be up for debate and that we had to have a law passed to be able to freely express ourselves. Especially when I see who’re people coming to work with pink or blue hair and it’s not an issue whatsoever!” — @charisec1 via Twitter
“It’s about time, but sadly [I] know some people STILL gonna try and not get it.” — @britantan via Instagram
“Ppl still discriminate based off societal ‘standards’ and ‘professionalism’ designed from the beginning of time, so the ideology remains. Secondly, by passing these laws I find that it’s being done like this so that they don’t have to say that all this time this did in fact exist.” — @theSHINEprjct via Twitter
And many were relieved…
“As a Black attorney with a crown that enters the court before I do, I’m here for it!” — @gabrielle_bass via Instagram
“This is long overdue, but there’s beauty in this struggle and victory in authenticity. The momentum of #TheCrownAct movement has formed a virtual sisterhood for me. I’m thankful!” — @_OSavannah via Twitter
“Brush for several years, braids next, now sister locs. Never had a problem. However, glad for others.” — @patmn67 via Twitter
“I’ve been wearing my hair natural throughout my entire, 20-year consulting career and to say it’s been hard is an understatement. Although I can’t prove outright discrimination, personal experience (and studies) suggest I’ve missed out on both income and opportunities. It is my hope that with the passing of the CROWN Act, and the discussion surrounding it, people will reflect on past notions of ‘professional appearance.’ I can attest that many don’t see their judgment of hair texture as racist. Perhaps, now they will.” — Desiré Greene via email.
Workers’ World Today is a free publication that empowers all workers, regardless of social or political affiliations. Distributed throughout New York City, our paper has a mission to educate workers and provide them with relevant information pertinent to the workforce such as workers’ compensation, discrimination on the job, workers’ rights, and more.