TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hair discrimination is something people of color have dealt with for decades and it’s legal, but The CROWN Act is working to change that.
“Should I go in there with my natural hair or sister locs, or should I go to my nice, long pretty weave that I throw on for any interview,” Shemika Howard expressed.
To wear her natural hair or put on a wig? That’s the question and the reality Howard faces before any and every job interview.
“The idea for sister locs is because they were more professional for me and I worried about what it would look like in the workplace being in the field that I’m in because it’s (a) predominately white male field,” she said.
8 On Your Sides’ Deanne King asked Howard what “professional-looking” hair means. “To me, it’s what society has thought and deemed as professional,” she answered.
Afros, braids, dreadlocs, twists and knots are all natural hairstyles that Black and Brown men and women wear. Some say these styles are unprofessional or distracting.
“I’ve had white bosses, mainly women and they’ll be like your hair is so pretty and they want to touch it,” Howard said. ” Then when I wear my afro they say ‘oh that’s different.”
“Every single week I would get my blow out and I wore my hair in a straight fashion because that’s what I had been trained as professional. That’s what I grew up to believe, what we should know now is that’s not true,” said Kelly Richardson-Lawson.
Richardson-Lawson is the founder and CEO of the JOY Collective.
“We were seeing in 2018 case after case after case of beautiful children being sent home from school because of their braids, or their twists or their locs,” Richardson-Lawson said.
She is working with Dove and the CROWN Coalition who created “The CROWN Act.” It’s a law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, which includes the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles such as braids, locs, twists, or Bantu knots.
“From a historical perspective, we know that our hair has been used as a weapon against us in so many years and all throughout history, so The CROWN Act represents our ability to have freedom, have expression of our hair in its beautiful natural state,” she said.
Currently, 10 states and 22 municipalities have passed The CROWN Act. California was the first state to sign the bill into law on July 3, which is now known as “National CROWN Day.” It was considered in Florida this past legislative session but did not pass. It will be re-introduced next year.
Richardson-Lawson says all groups working to pass The CROWN Act nationwide are doing this for the next generation of Black and Brown girls and boys.
“For little girls to look in the mirror and say I’m beautiful the way my hair comes out of my head,” she said.
Howard wants the same for her daughter.
“I want her to be able to embrace that and say ‘mom I want dreads like yours’ or ‘mom I want to put my hair into afro puffs,'” Howard said.
Last National CROWN Day, WFLA’s Deanne King shared her story on how she was discriminated against based on her natural hair as a journalist and while growing up. Click here to read her story. Also, do not be afraid to reach out to Deanne if you are experiencing this and need someone to talk to.
For more on the CROWN Coalition’s efforts and The CROWN Act, visit the campaign’s website.