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'We should have that protective right': State representatives push for passage of the CROWN Act

Posted at 7:40 PM, Apr 27, 2021

Since 2019, there has been a growing movement to end hair discrimination within schools and the work place. The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN Act, aims to prevent discrimination against any hair texture or protective style associated with one's race.

According to its website, the CROWN Act was first signed into law in July 2019.

First introduced in California in January 2019 and signed into law on July 3, 2019, the inaugural CROWN Act expanded the definition of race in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Code, to ensure protection in workplaces and in K-12 public and charter schools. Since then, The CROWN Act has galvanized support from federal and state legislators in the movement to end hair discrimination nationwide.

State Representative Rhetta Andrews Bowers introduced the CROWN Act as Texas House Bill 392, with similar legislation coming from the Texas Senate under Senate Bill 77. Legislators and supporters met in Austin to share their stories of hair discrimination and kick off Texas CROWN Act Day.

“If we decide that we want to wear our hear natural, then that’s our prerogative. We should have that right, we should have that protective right, and it should not be used to penalized or harm us,” said Rep. Nicole Collier (TX-95).

Kinks, coils, curls, and braided race-based hair styles are up for discussion during the 87th legislative session. State representatives who support the bill say this type of discrimination has negative, long-lasting impacts on people of color.

“If you always feel inferior, what happens to you in any setting,whether it be at school or on the job?” asked Rep. Barbra Gervin-Hawkins (TX-120).

They say it's a trickle-down effect that can result in internalized self-hate, especially in young children.

“It is very much detrimental to a person's mental state. They are held in isolation, they are kept from future success to be honest. We will have our day. We will be heard, and I do believe that Texas will be on the list of states that have passed the CROWN Act,” said Rep Bowers.

Hope Cozart, whose son was suspended by Troy ISD for his hairstyle, traveled to Austin to voice her support.

But why should you care? Why does this matter if you don’t have kinks and curls?

“I think we have to be open and willing to not just have these conversations, but to learn from someone else's experience in perspective," explained Dr. Stephanie Peebles Tavera, English professor and cultural studies theorist at A&M-Central Texas.

Dr. Tavera says there is a documented history of the long-term mental health effects for people of color who have to adjust their appearance to fit into society’s beauty standards.

“We have documented it for a long time, you know, the fact that there's been a trend in the beauty industry of marketing products to Black women, encouraging them to conform to white beauty standards. Hair relaxers and straighteners, your skin lighteners, this has been something that we've been observing and marking trends for 30 to 40 years now," she said.

Dr. Tavera says it's an uncomfortable conversation to have if you aren't a person a color, but there has to be a commitment to acknowledging this as a problem that stems from decades behind us.

“I think sometimes there seems to be a sense of like, this assumption that there's shame in being white because we're complicit in the history of racism in this country, and we are, but at the same time, I feel like that's, that can't be a barrier to asking, opening up to saying, 'Hey, I want to learn,'” she said.

Texas representatives say they are pushing for this bill to be voted on during this legislative session. Representative Bowers says there is bipartisan support.