City In Kansas Embraces Legislation To Prevent Black People From Hair

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A city in Kansas has decided to embrace legislation similar to the C.R.O.W.N. Act that prevents discrimination based on a hairstyle.

Lawrence, Kansas, is believed to be the first city in the state to formally provide protection against hair discrimination. The measure has already won unanimous approval from the Lawrence City Commission and will go to a vote Tuesday (Aug. 22) that is expected to pass.

“While state legislators have failed to adopt innovative policies like the C.R.O.W.N Act, which can boost economic growth, retain talent, and ensure basic rights for all Kansans, Lawrence city officials have taken decisive action,” says Michele Watley, who founded the Black women’s advocacy group Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet in Kansas City, Missouri, which is about 40 minutes from Lawrenceville.

“It’s not just a policy on paper; it’s Lawrence taking a stand for transformative change.”

The C.R.O.W.N. Act, Creating a Respectful Workplace for Natural Hair, was introduced in 2019 by the soap and beauty company Dove along with the National Urban League, Color of Change, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty. It sought to keep people of color who wear their hair in Afros, locs, braids, or other natural hairstyles from having to change them in the workplace or being denied employment because of them.

In 2019, the legislation was introduced in California and signed into law in July. Now 23 states have passed the C.R.O.W.N Act, but Kansas is not one of them. Activists are hopeful that can change, with Lawrence being the first to adopt the legislation.

“Last [week’s] unanimous vote is a resounding message that Lawrence is a city where everyone can unapologetically embrace their natural hair without fear or consequence,” Amber Sellers, a city commissioner in Lawrence, said in a news release. “This commitment means many, like myself, can confidently exist in an environment that truly values diversity.”

Efforts continue to pass the C.R.O.W.N. Act on the federal level. Though it has bipartisan support and has passed in the House, it is stalled in the Senate after being introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) in December 2022. It will have to be reintroduced again before it can be passed.

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