The Texas House’s State Affairs Committee took up the CROWN Act Thursday, a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyle.
This is a big deal in Texas, for one, because many thought this bill wouldn’t even be heard by the house committee.
People have been passed over for promotions, seen job offers rescinded, or they're not even considered at all because of their hair, supporters of the bill say. The CROWN Act has sparked a real conversation in our state and across the country about Black hair in the workplace, and the push to "normalize" the hair that simply grows out of your head.
The CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” comes as part of a national movement with 10 other states -- including California, New York, and Virginia -- that have already passed their own CROWN legislation.
The author of House Bill 392, Dallas Democratic Rep. Rhetta Bowers, says the fact alone that this bill was even heard was a victory in itself.
“These are conversations that were had around the kitchen table, at the beauty salon, barbershop, but never in public settings,” said Bowers. “It’s time because this has been happening for far too long.”
Bowers says Thursday’s testimony for the CROWN Act was nothing short of powerful. She recalls when she got that call from Adjoa Asamoah with the CROWN Coalition in 2019 who asked her to carry this legalization and introduce it as a bill in Texas.
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“I promise you, I was shaking my head there in my living room, my family room, thinking, 'no, I don't think we are ready for that. I really don't.' But it was at the moment that we did a press conference at Texas Southern University at the Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, in February of 2020. Remind, we've already had the story of DeAndre Arnold, we already had "Hair Love" win at the Oscars. I saw a higher being at work by then, because I just didn't know how it would be received in the legislature,” said Bowers. “When all of those things occurred, and by the time I was on that flight, that Southwest flight to Houston, I was like, 'if anything, you’re committed now.'”
People came from across the state to testify in support of the CROWN Act, including DeAndre Arnold, who made national news last year after being told his dreads were too long to graduate at Barbers Hill High School. After refusing to cut his hair, the school district just outside of Houston responded by telling Arnold he would not be allowed to walk the stage at his graduation.
A Texas judge ruled the school district's hair policy was discriminatory, nearly a month after the school district board voted not to change its hair code policy.
That's just one of many cases of hair discrimination across Texas.
“I even heard this week, a young man there in Dallas, that he cut his hair, he cut his dreads to keep his job to keep his family fed. To keep a roof over their heads. It is important that we stop discrimination that is keeping people, students from graduating, students from day to day in classroom learning, and also stopping people from advancement in the workplace,” said Rep. Bowers.
The next big step is getting the CROWN Act out of the House's State Affairs Committee and get the proposed legislation in front of the full body.