Lawrence unanimously passes CROWN Act on race-based hair discrimination

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Lawrence is now believed to be the first city in Kansas to adopt an ordinance protecting people from race-based hair discrimination.

The Lawrence City Commission unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday that declares “restrictions or bans on natural hair or protective hairstyles,” such as braids, locs, afros, curls and twists, violate Lawrence’s antidiscrimination regulations.

Tuesday’s vote was more of a formality since commissioners also unanimously approved the ordinance during the first reading at their Aug. 15 meeting.

“We recognize that natural hair styles and textures should be protected and respected as an inherent part of a person’s cultural and racial identity,” said Farris Muhammad, Lawrence director of equity and inclusion.

“In Lawrence, we want to dismantle anti-Black racism and make it safe for everyone to seek opportunities without fear of judgment or persecution based on their hair.” 

Protections against race-based hair discrimination have widely become known as the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.

Earlier this year, Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet founder Michele Watley held a presentation on the CROWN Act for Lawrence leaders and helped the commission draft the ordinance language, according to city records.

“It’s bigger than just hair. It’s about building an equitable community where everyone, especially Black residents, can participate in our economy without unnecessary barriers,” Watley said in a statement.

“Ordinance No. 10003 eliminates loopholes that permitted racial discrimination based on hair, setting the stage for a more diverse workforce and bolstering our city’s economic health. This move underscores the power of representation in government and the impact of elected officials collaborating with the communities they serve.”

According to research funded by Dove, Black women are 80% more likely to change their natural hair style at work and are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work because of their hairstyle.

Kansas City passed a similar measure in 2020, one of the first U.S. cities to join the CROWN Act coalition, and Jackson County passed its own ordinance in 2022.

The CROWN Act is in effect in 22 states, including Texas, Michigan, Minnesota, California and more, but Kansas and Missouri lawmakers have not passed such legislation yet.

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