person with hair

The CROWN Act will be added to the New Mexico Legislature this 60-day session, just after Albuquerque City Council unanimously voted to amend the city’s Human Rights Ordinance and adopted the CROWN Act banning discrimination based on hair texture or hairstyle.

A movement founded by Dove, National Urban League, Color of Change and Western Center of Law and Poverty, the act simply wants to create a fair atmosphere for natural hair. CROWN stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair,” and the act has caught on with seven states since its development in 2009.

States including California and New York have joined the cause, and now New Mexico’s biggest city has decided to get on board. This past Monday Albuquerque’s City Council welcomed the act with excitement as they agreed to protect Albuquerque residents from discrimination based on hair.

While Albuquerque’s bill focused on discrimination in the workplace, HB 29 will focus specifically on discrimination of hair and headdress in school settings. The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Bernalillo) and Rep. Patricia Roybal Caballero (D-Bernalillo). “I hope this will make a cultural difference in New Mexico, not only children or adults, but mixed people. Black children are treated different with locks and braids and hairstyles that represent Black culture. Native Americans suffered a lot because of their hair,” said Williams Stapleton.

Now let’s break down the culture behind the act. Centered around  mostly Black hairstyles, Dove conducted a study involving the workplace and hair. In a study that featured 1,000 Black women and 1,000 white women, with ages varying from 25 to 65 years old, researchers focused on full-time office jobs in a period of six months. The numbers are quite appalling. According to the study, Black women are 1.5 times more likely to get sent home due to their hair and have an 80 percent chance of receiving judgment for their hairstyles.

So why is this an issue, and why are Black hairstyles being targeted in the workplace? Well, apparently the issue ties back to the U.S.’ dark past with racism. Since the colonial days, Black women who were forced to work in the field used rags to cover their hair as they embraced the harsh weather, yet the house slaves were forced to replicate the hairstyles of the white women they served.

It only got worse from there, until the Civil Rights era  of the ’60s and ’70s. During this time a cultural movement came to prominence called “Black is Beautiful.” Focusing on emotional and psychological well-being, this movement was the first big push affirming natural Black hairstyles. It focused on hairstyles that people wear today, such as afros, dreadlocks and cornrows.  

It would seem, since then, Black hairstyles would be warmly accepted. But they haven’t. After decades people are still facing this predicament. In 2010 a Black woman named Chastity Jones received a job offer at a call center in Alabama after interviewing while wearing her short dreadlocks. When she returned to begin her employment, she was told her job was contingent on cutting her dreadlocks off. She refused after her employers told her that her hairstyle was “messy.”

In all liklihood, the governor will back the measure if it ends up on her desk, as she created the Advisory Council for Racial Justice to address specific issues just like this.

Now with the CROWN Act going into full swing in Albuquerque, employers and schools will no longer have the ability to suspend any person based on hair. We will hear more from the CROWN Act during the next session on Jan. 19 during the state’s 60-day session.