Table Talk: Family Conversations about Current EventsFor Educators | For Parents, Families, and Caregivers | For Students
The CROWN Act is a law that forbids discrimination based on hair texture and hair styles. CROWN stands for: “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair.” Hair discrimination impacts Black people, especially Black women and girls in schools and workplaces who wear hair styles such as locs, braids, twists, Bantu knots, afros and natural hair. They are punished by discriminatory workplace and school dress codes and grooming policies.
What is hair discrimination?
Discrimination is unfair treatment of one person or group of people because of the person or group’s identity (e.g., race, gender, ability, religion, culture, etc.). There has been hair discrimination against Black people, especially Black women and girls, for centuries. Hair discrimination takes place in K-12 schools and workplaces based on unfair rules and policies. These policies are typically based on subjective and biased beliefs about what “professionalism” or “neat” hair styles looks like. These beliefs are often based on white standards of beauty (i.e., straight hair, light skin, etc.).
In workplaces, hair discrimination happens when Black employees are judged, punished, or even fired for how they wear their hair to work. Black women with natural hair styles are more likely to be sent home from work and less likely to land job interviews because of their hair styles.
Hair discrimination impacts K-12 students in a variety of ways. Examples include: students receiving detentions and suspensions for violating school dress codes which prohibit wearing hair in braids with extensions or other natural hair styles; student- athletes who are unable to participate in sports unless they cut or change their hair; and displays that show images of Black children, including Black girls with braids, and label those hairstyles as “inappropriate.”
The impact of hair discrimination
Hair discrimination impacts what Black girls and women can do and it also impacts how they feel about themselves and their hair. A 2021 study by Dove CROWN Research for Girls, in collaboration with JOY Collective, found that:
Black girls as young as five years old experience hair discrimination (as reported by their parents).
By age twelve, 86% of Black teenagers started experiencing discrimination based on their hair.
81% of Black children in majority-white schools say they sometimes wish their hair was straight.
A previous study by Dove (in 2019) found that Black women were 1.5 times more likely to be sent home or know of a Black woman sent home from the workplace because of her hair.
80% of Black women are more likely to change their hair from its natural state to “fit in” at their place of work.
What states have passed the CROWN Act?
The CROWN Act was first passed in California in 2019. The law states: "In a society in which hair has historically been one of many determining factors of a person’s race, and whether they were a second-class citizen, hair today remains a proxy for race. Therefore, hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination." Since California passed the CROWN Act in 2019, thirteen other states have passed the CROWN Act or a comparable law (as of March 2022): New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington, Maryland, Connecticut, New Mexico, Delaware, Nebraska, Nevada, Illinois and Oregon. The CROWN Act has been filed or pre-filed in other states as well.
On March 18, 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the CROWN Act. If the bill gets voted on and passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, it will prohibit hair texture and style discrimination in K-12 schools and workplaces across the U.S. In this video, you can watch Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), who sponsored the bill, share her thoughts about the importance of the CROWN Act.
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Questions to Start the Conversation
Have you ever heard about hair discrimination? What did you know about it before and what did you learn?
Have you ever experienced, seen or heard about hair discrimination? If so, what happened?
How would you describe the CROWN Act in your own words? Why do you think it’s called the CROWN Act (i.e., why Crown?)?
What more do you want to know about hair discrimination and the CROWN Act?
Does our state have the CROWN Act, or has it been filed or pre-filed? You can use this map to find out.
Questions to Dig Deeper
(See the Additional Resources section for articles and information that address these questions.)
Why do you think there is a bill for a nationwide CROWN Act?
How do you think the CROWN Act will improve the environment for Black women and girls at school and at work?
What can we do to prevent hair discrimination in our school, community and society?
Ideas for Taking Action
Ask: What can we do to help? What individual and group actions can help make a difference?
Educate yourself and others about hair discrimination and the CROWN Act by sharing information with friends, family and peers — on social media or by helping to organize an educational event in your school or community.
Learn more about the policies and practices at your school that may be unfairly impact Black people and hair styles and texture.
Reach out to your members of Congress to share your thoughts about hair discrimination and the need for the CROWN Act.
Hair Discrimination and the CROWN Act (ADL Lesson Plan: MS/HS)
Identity, Hair and Seeing Myself (ADL Lesson Plan: Elementary)