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How The CROWN Act is trying to end hair discrimination

Posted at 6:56 AM, Feb 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-13 13:23:52-05

Black History Month has roots and meaning everywhere, including in a person's "crown" or hair.

The CROWN Act was created by the beauty company Dove, National Urban League, Color of Change and Western Center on Law & Poverty, all working in partnership to stop unfair judgment and discrimination against Black women based on natural hair.

According to the website, the acronym stands for "Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair". A petition right now has over 400,000 signatures to stop racial discrimination based on hairstyles.

Sen. Holly J. Mitchell first introduced the CROWN Act in the state of California in January 2019.

20 states have gone on to passed The CROWN Act, which makes it illegal to discriminate towards an individuals hair in the workplace or at school. Texas is not one of them.

Latricia Gunnells said her daughter Sanyah Lay used to attend school here in the Coastal Bend.

Gunnells said her daughter experienced unwanted attention for her hair from her classmates and her teacher.

“And I got questioned by like, was that your real hair? How long did that take? they would say,” Lay said.

Lay told us another time, a classmate tugged on the back of her hair.

“She was constantly bullied in a matter of 'Oh is that weave,' 'Oh that’s weave,' or 'weave queen,'" Gunnells said. he even had a teacher go in and touch her hair once and say, 'Oh your hair is so pretty today'.”

In 2022, Gunnells said they decided to move to Houston so her daughter wouldn’t continue to be bullied.

“I feel as a parent I failed her,” Gunnells said.

According to a DoveCROWNstudy, 86% of Black teens who experience discrimination say they have experienced it based on their hair by the age of 12.

The study also found that, while 90% of Black girls believe their hair is beautiful, the microaggressions and discrimination Black girls endure has an impact on how they see themselves.

“I won’t stop wearing my box braids. That is like my go to hair style. And you can’t say anything that will make me feel bad for being Black,” Lay said.

The purpose of The CROWN Act is that it prohibits discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture, whether its an afro, box braids, cornrows, locs, twists, bantu knots and more.

“It’s key to the culture,” Lisa Terrell, owner of Corpus Christi Beauty Bar said.

Terrell is a hairstylist and owner of Corpus Christi Beauty Bar. She said 15 years ago, she was the only one doing sew-in hair styles for clients with multicultural hair.

“Because you want people to know there’s a place where people that have hair like them, can come in and feel comfortable get their hair done and get it done properly,” Terrell said.

She said when talking about The CROWN Act, she gets emotional.

“I’ve done hair for over 20 years, and I have watched Black women go from 'I need a wig because I got this new job,' (to) 'Why do we need a wig if we got a new job?' Terrell said. "Because we don’t know how someone is going to take us with our natural hair. So, what do we need a wig for?”

For Black men, finding a barber who can cut Black hair is a struggle and a mission itself.

“Well I didn’t learn how to cut hair until I was taught from another Black person," Charles Brambila owner of Nxt LVL Barbershop said. I had a friend named Jam Marcus who showed me a few tips here and there. That’s when I started building up my clientele and learning how to cut hair,”

Brambila said when he started cutting hair, Black clients wouldn’t trust him.

“I think probably because I was Hispanic (and) was bald too. They didn’t really trust me at the beginning until they had seen one of my clients,” he said.

He said now he has over 30 Black clients who trust him to cut their hair.

“It’s all about trust. As soon as you walk in, you make the client feel comfortable,” Brambila said.

On June 9, 2022, Austin City Council approved implementing The Austin CROWN Act.

However, the CROWN Act did not pass the U.S. Senate and will need to be reintroduced during the 2023 legislative session.

To pass The CROWN Act and drive change to end race based hair discrimination, click here.