Living Well Black supports H.R. 2116, the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act of 2022,” passed by the House of Representatives on March 18, 2022 and sent over to the Senate for its consideration. If it becomes law it will forbid discriminating based upon hair texture or hairstyle when the hair texture or hairstyle is associated with a particular race or national origin.
This legislation was necessary due to historical discrimination against people of African descent who wear their hair in natural or “protective” hairstyles such as “locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, or Afros.” (See CROWN ACT Sec. 2) Discrimination still occurs today as people of color are discriminated against for wearing natural hairstyles in the workplace, at school, and while competing in sports. Natural styles are called “protective” because they don’t involve using heat or chemicals to straighten hair. Although both heat and chemicals can be damaging to our hair, chemical straighteners contain toxins that are associated with damaging health effects.
In a 2021 document entitled “Chemicals in Hair Straightening Products Background Document,” (Background Document) The California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substances Control Safer Consumer Products Program (DTSC) examined hair straightening products to begin determining if, due to the presence of many “Chemicals of Concern,” the products should face stronger regulation. During its review of 3 relaxer kits the DTSC “detected 35 different endocrine-disrupting or asthma-associated chemicals.” (Background Document p.4) Endocrine disrupting chemicals are similar in chemical structure to estrogen, have been found in relaxer products, and are linked to harms like an increased risk of breast cancer, an earlier start of menstruation among girls, diabetes, and obesity. (Id)
Living Well Black strongly supports this legislation which recognizes our right to wear the natural hairstyle of our choice as a Federally protected civil right. If this legislation is enacted it would make clear that current Federal protections prohibiting discrimination also forbid discrimination on the basis of hairstyle or hair texture. Under the bill this applies not only to all programs or activities receiving Federal funds, but also to housing practices, public accommodations, and employment.