Today, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, authored by Rep. Rena Moran (DFL – Saint Paul), which would add a provision to the Minnesota Human Rights Act to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of hair appearance and texture.
“The CROWN Act will empower future generations to not be ashamed of how their hair looks or worry about what people in powerful positions might think of it, but instead give them the opportunity to fully embrace their heritage,” Moran said.
“All Black Minnesotans should be proud of their heritage, which is reflected in their natural hairstyles. No one should be forced to change their natural hair just to conform to antiquated norms and standards, or unjust policies at school or work. The CROWN Act will end this in our state, and I’m grateful for the support of community members who helped this legislation get passed today,” said Moran.
While the state’s Human Rights Act already prohibits discrimination based on race, discrimination of someone wearing their hair in a culturally-appropriate manner – like braids, dreadlocks, or twists – is not. The CROWN Act would extend this protection to many areas of law covered by the Minnesota Human Rights Act, including public services and accommodations, education, housing and employment.
The issue received increased attention when Matthew Cherry, director of the film “Hair Love,” urged all 50 states to adopt the measure during his acceptance speech following the film’s victory at this year’s Oscars. The film is a 7 minute animated short film that centers around the relationship between an African-American father, Stephen, his daughter, Zuri and her hair. This story was born out of seeing a lack of representation in mainstream animated projects, and also wanting to promote hair love among young men and women of color.
Minnesota has been home to discrimination on the basis of hairstyle, too. During a committee hearing about the legislation earlier this session, Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero noted an instance of an employer changing their hair policy and subsequently firing several workers who didn’t comply. A settlement which resulted in the workers regaining their jobs was later reached.
According to Dove’s CROWN Coalition Research Study, 80 percent of African Americans are likely to change their natural hair to meet employer expectations. Fifty percent of African American women feel likely to be dismissed from work – or know someone who has been – for not following their employer’s grooming policy.
California, New Jersey and New York have already enacted similar measures.
Video of the House Floor session will be available on the House Public Information Services’ YouTube Channel. The legislation now goes to the Minnesota Senate for consideration.