Anti-hair Discrimination Bill Brings Awareness to Ongoing Issue
DENTON- In March 2022, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2116, the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act or CROWN Act The federal bill is on its way to the U.S., even gaining the attention of President Biden, who is in support of the bill.
The purpose of the CROWN Act is to prohibit race-based discrimination that primarily targets natural hair or protective hairstyles in spaces such as the work environment and schools.
In 2021, Joy Collective partnered with the Dove company to conduct a study of 1000 Black and White girls, revealing that 86% of Black teens have experienced discrimination based on their hair by age 12. However, this issue not only affects Black girls, as it even also Black boys in schools, especially in sports.
Students, especially Black students, have been the target of hair discrimination for years and there has not been a bill to draw attention to this matter until now.
Jacob Rush II, a homeschooled high school student from the virtual school Abeka Christian Academy, made national headlines when in preparation for his graduation ceremony, the graduation coordinators for his ceremony reached out to him and his family. Abeka stated he would not be allowed to walk at graduation because of his locs.
Latrenda Rush, Jacob’s mother, spoke to more than one admin about the guidelines which stated “No Afros, Cornrows, Buns, Ponytails, or Dreadlocks,” expressing that their policy “is discrimination and that everyone’s hair isn’t the same.” The school remained firm on their policy, which prompted Rush to create a petition on Change.org. The petition blew up online, collecting signatures everyday in support of Jacob. The situation even prompted importance discussion on hair discrimination and how many were impacted in the same way.
“Schools and workplace should keep in mind the importance of diversity and respecting other cultures,” Rush said. “Hair discrimination is real and should be abolished.”
As of Wednesday, April 20, Latrenda announced on her Instagram that with the help of 101,327 signatures on the petition, Jacob can walk the stage at graduation and keep his locs.
At UNT, students are vocal about their experiences with hair discrimination to bring awareness to the ongoing issue.
Student organization Mixed Greens held two events dedicated to open discussions about mixed hair. Mixed Greens is a student organization providing a space for students from mixed-race backgrounds, interracial relationships, and transracial adoptions.
Mixed Greens President, Tatiana Brown-Gómez led the discussion on Mixed hair and how students feel about their hair.
UNT Junior Kimberly Mandhlazi, recounts her relationship with her hair and how it impacted her school career.
"I don’t have hair like everybody else and I mean everybody doesn’t have the same hair but growing up in communities where I was around you know my white peers and their hair was a lot straighter and I guess more manageable than mine it was really hard,” Mandhlazi said.
When Mandhlazi’s brother was in middle school, he was told to either cut his locs or he would not be allowed to play football. Mandhlazi also explains their family never had to face problems such as these until her brother got to middle school.
“He’d never experience anything and then we come here, and they tell us he can’t have his locs and if he decides to keep them, he can’t play,” Mandhlazi said.
Mixed Greens President, Tatiana Brown-Gómez, led the discussion on Mixed hair at the meeting, expressing her disappointment with the spaces that continue to discriminate against students in schools, which go as far as not allowing students to participate in major school career milestones like prom and even graduation.
“I’ve heard many cases where its like you can’t walk at graduation because you have a certain hairstyle, or you can’t go to prom or its seen more inappropriate to have certain hairstyles and it’s really ridiculous and it’s really saddening to hear these things” Brown-Gómez said.
Brown-Gómez also highlighted that school children are taught at an early age about the reality of the discrimination they will face in schools.
“It’s a sad realization that as a child you know you have to be told to be ready to face discrimination and face backlash because of what you look like,” Brown-Gómez said.
The CROWN Act is on its way to the U.S. Senate and President Joe Biden expressed his support for the bill in a statement release from the Executive Office of the President.