The fact that in the year of our lord 2019 we have to ban discrimination against hair that grows from our scalp is mind-boggling. Yet, here we are. Last month, it was California. Now, it’s New York.
Months after New York City’s Commission on Human Rights made it the first city to ever ban hair discrimination, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill to amend the state’s Human Rights Law.
The new amendment to the Dignity for All Students Act updates the definition of race discrimination used in existing law, adding “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
“For much of our nation’s history, people of color — particularly women — have been marginalized and discriminated against simply because of their hairstyle or texture,” Cuomo said in a statement Friday. “By signing this bill into law, we are taking an important step toward correcting that history and ensuring people of color are protected from all forms of discrimination.”
New York is now the second state to ban racial discrimination based on hair as part of the CROWN Coalition’s movement to eradicate hair discrimination across the country.
The coalition is a national alliance comprised of the National Urban League, Dove, Color of Change and Western Center on Law and Poverty. It started its work in California with Sen. Holly J. Mitchell to pass the first-ever CROWN Act (SB 188) addressing hair discrimination. The bill passed last month and will take effect on January 1, 2020. New York’s law is effective immediately.
“As a Black woman who prioritizes equity, and has worn my natural for 17 years, this bill is deeply personal for me,” said Assembly Member Tremaine S. Wright who introduced New York’s version of the CROWN Act legislation.
A recent study by Dove shows Black women are 1.5 times more likely than their White counterparts to have reported being sent home or know of a Black woman sent home from the workplace because of her hair. On top of that, Black women are 80% more likely to change their natural hair to meet social norms or expectations at work.
The coalition is now working to get similar laws passed throughout all 50 states. Currently, Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham has introduced legislation in New Jersey.