My Natural Hair Is Finally Legal
The CROWN Act was passed so I can wear my natural hair to work.
Recently, California passed a law called the CROWN Act. This act
prohibits discrimination in public schools and the workplace based on “traits historically associated with one’s race, such as hair texture and protective hairstyles.” The law largely focuses on the Black community since we’ve been discriminated against in the workplace for various reasons, our kinky-curly hair serving as one avenue. We’ve been made to believe that the hair literally growing out of our heads is ‘unprofessional’.
Think about it, did First Lady Michelle Obama ever wear her hair naturally during the Presidency?
No, because she wasn’t afforded that luxury.
The CROWN Act is special. The name itself is symbolic. My hair is my crown. It’s never been just hair. It’s is my soul, ancestors, power, community, and identity. When someone insults my crown, they’re insulting me. All of me.
My crown has been attacked in more ways than I can count. Like when a peer compared my hair to pubes, or when I was asked if my natural hair is constantly itchy (she seriously thinks billions of people on this planet are living in a perpetual state of itchy discomfort because of their hair texture?!). Sigh, this is when Google comes in handy.
Most of my life I straightened my hair due to shame.
This shame developed because of stereotypes thrust upon me by society — unclean, unkempt, unattractive. These false labels stem back to slavery in which White colonizers deemed Black hair comparable to sheep wool, rather than considering it human hair. This mentality reinforced the exotification of Black people, which still exists today.
In my 20s, I began embracing my natural hair. It wasn’t easy. It was a psychological process. I had to unpack and unlearn racist notions I’d internalized my whole life. Today, I genuinely love my fro. The more I love my crown, the more I love myself. That’s how much my hair means to me, and to so many Black people.
I’m fortunate because I’ve never had to change my hair for my career — metropolitan nonprofits and school districts aren’t all that strict. But I do have loved ones who’ve altered their hair to appear more ‘professional’ and wouldn’t dare walk into an interview with a natural look. Implicit bias is real.
For instance, a Black news anchor was fired because she wore her natural hair on air. The news anchor wanted to stop straightening her hair, but the director responded, “[her] natural hair is unprofessional and the equivalent to him throwing on a baseball cap to go to the grocery store….Mississippi viewers needed to see a beauty queen.” Clearly, this guy doesn’t know what a Queen looks like.
You see, Black hair takes up space which means Black people take up space, and that makes some individuals very uncomfortable.
But sorry-not-sorry to those who are uncomfortable with me living my best life. The CROWN Act is here to stay. It gives me and my Black sisters and brothers an opportunity to unashamedly express ourselves in the workplace by law.
Does this mean discrimination will be completely eliminated from the workplace and in schools? Nope, but it’s a step in the right direction. So watch out world, because our crowns proudly radiate throughout The Golden State.