High Country News
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High Country News

Western lawmakers lead a movement to protect natural hair

A recent wave of legislation fights for Black women’s right to wear natural styles and have safe hair products.

On July 03, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom Signs SB188, the CROWN Act, into law, making California the first state to ban hair discrimination in work and school. Senator Holly Mitchell, seen here with Gov. Newsom, was the bill’s sponsor. | Courtesy of JOY Collective

In 2019, when Tekulve Jackson-Vann told his supervisor at the Payson Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about his decision to wear his hair in locs, he was fired. “We’re asked to have our hair in a conservative style so it’s not a distraction to the patrons,” Jackson-Vann told a local network news reporter. “My first thought immediately was, ‘This is a moment — this is a moment where I can help educate my brethren in the Gospel that there are standards which are not rooted in doctrine and that can be challenged.’”

Jackson-Vann was reinstated within 24 hours, but the incident prompted Utah state Sen. Derek Kitchen, D, to draft new legislation known as the CROWN Act, for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, which prohibits state employers and public schools from discriminating against Black residents for wearing natural hairstyles.

If it’s passed and signed into law, the law will make Utah the fourth Western state to pass such legislation, joining California, Colorado and Washington. New Mexico and Oregon are not far behind. New Mexico’s bill, which is set to be introduced during the 2021 legislative session, could beat the Utah bill to the finish line, while lawmakers in Oregon plan to reintroduce their own version of the CROWN Act this year.

Passage elsewhere in the West remains uncertain: The CROWN Act was filed in Arizona but didn’t pass, and so far, Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming have yet to propose similar legislation. In September, however, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal version of the law, which currently awaits a vote in the Senate.

Read more: https://www.hcn.org/articles/south-justice-western-lawmakers-lead-a-movement-to-protect-natural-hair

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