The Senate Blocked The CROWN Act In 2022. Here's Why That Matters
“This is not just a hair issue, this is a Civil Rights issue.”
On the night of December 14, 2022, while Black women slept in their bonnets, wraps, braids, twists, buns, and silk scarves, the CROWN Act (which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) was blocked for the second time by the Senate, preventing the bill from becoming federal law and authorized across the United States.
It’s not surprising. Time and again, we have seen the ripple effect of white supremacy in Black beauty. We have witnessed Eurocentric standards push Black women in the spaces they reside in, and the systems created to make Blackness the quietest parts of us.
Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman wrote a letter calling for Senate leadership to include the CROWN Act in its end-of-year funding legislation. “This is not ‘just a hair’ issue, this is a Civil Rights issue. Hair-based discrimination remains a source of racial injustice with serious economic consequences for Black people,” stated Coleman.
The CROWN Coalition, co-founded by Dove in 2019, recently conducted a study that found 66 percent of Black women change their hair for a job interview. The CROWN Act being blocked for a second time, sends the message that perhaps the women who feel they have to alter their hair are right, and that there are no legal protections against discrimination.
I’ve spoken with Black women all over the country for their reaction to the recent setback. Below, their thoughts on the future of the CROWN Act, natural hair in the workplace, and more.
CEO of Styling by Chi
“The Senate choosing to block the CROWN Act for a second time makes me feel a multitude of emotions that are hard to process. The common theme between them all is a spirit of loneliness. Black women, Black trans women, and Black femmes for my entire life have longed for inclusion, acceptance, and respect. While the feeling for me as an individual is a lonely one — as it is for other Black women — one may describe it as community.
However, within that ‘community,’ we are all isolated depending on texturism, colorism, and ‘gas lighting,’ or invalidating each other's trauma due to white supremacy as I like to call it. I deserve to have full autonomy over my hair in every setting I step foot into, just like everyone else. It's an exhausting feeling to be hyper aware of the very thing that makes you who you are. To police a Black woman's hair, is to police her purpose, and dim her God-given light. No one has the right to do that to anyone, ever.”
Founder, Black Girl Magic Museum
“It is disappointing to know that the Senate does not care about the policing of Black hair. However, not surprising. I started my company Black Girl Magic Museum to give Black women a place to feel safe, and the number one topic that is brought up is the policing of Black hair in school and the workplace. Black women should be free to wear our hair any way we choose. The way it grows from our head should not be up for debate.”
Los Angeles, CA
“It’s extremely frustrating to know an act designed to protect a woman for how her hair grows naturally continues to get rejected. We’re literally being told, ‘you can be discriminated against for how you wear your hair.’ As a former producer, I remember our Black anchor having to tell our director when she was getting her hair done and had to get the style approved! And she would get sew-ins; she wasn’t even wearing her natural hair. It’s hurtful to see small ounces of progress and changes happening in the world and yet Black women are still not protected. I will continue to rock my natural hair, and I will not be apologetic about it.”
Criminal Defense & Personal Injury Attorney
“As an African-American attorney who proudly wears her hair in a variety of styles, including braids, natural twist-outs, and silk presses, the blocking of the CROWN Act is just another reason why it is so important to vote for political figures who put our interests first and then hold them accountable. When the individuals who stand as the intermediaries between the laws created and our rights have had a personal experience with discrimination, or have genuinely taken a true interest to understand discrimination on this level, then legislation will be constructed to protect against the biases that surround the conversation of natural hair.
A few years ago, I worked as a prosecutor in a small Texas county with only two Black prosecutors out of almost forty. I was one of the two. At this point in my life, I was working through transitioning my hair from relaxed to completely natural. I wore my hair in very neat twists and twist-outs. Although I knew I wanted to migrate through this process to have more flexibility with my hair and to help my hair be healthier, I was hesitant of how my mostly white colleagues would receive me. It was an extremely uncomfortable feeling.
So many Black and minority individuals experience uncertainty, insecurity, and hesitation around how their natural hair will be perceived. But why? Why should we question our hair’s versatility so as to not be discriminated against by others who don’t have the same flexibility? We shouldn’t have to.”
Social Media Content Creator
“In all honesty, it's disheartening. It hurts to know that my people in their most natural and authentic states aren't accepted. To have the CROWN Act blocked two times shows a lack of care, understanding, and appreciation for Black culture and, more specifically, Black hair.
I can recall my middle, elementary, and high school's code of conduct laying out strict rules about dress code. Interestingly enough, these rules almost always only affected Black students. But, since we didn't see our hair as (according to most handbooks) ‘extreme’ and or ‘distracting,’ we'd still wear and embrace them.
My hair in its most natural state is not extreme, distracting, or unprofessional. My braids and twists aren’t meant to gain attention but simply to protect my hair. I should in no way have to conform to be accepted in the workplace or in an educational setting. I should be accepted the way that I was created, in my most natural and authentic state. To strip me of my crown is to strip me of my culture.”
Visual Brand Consultant
“It’s honestly quite sad that our natural born hair is an issue that we are still facing today. The fact that we are having to fight against race-based hair discrimination is so heartbreaking. It’s telling us that we don’t belong, and this is untrue. We are humans that are just as valuable as anyone else. The hair that grows from our scalp shouldn’t even be up for discussion, let alone be the reason why we aren’t not allowed to progress forward in schools, in the workplace or anywhere else we step foot into. Our hair is what represents us. We should not be penalized for that.”
Los Angeles, CA
Fashion Stylist and Freelance Writer
“The Senate may have blocked it again, but that does not mean we will back down. I envision a future where we wear our natural hair without others imposing limitations and stipulations on our hair. I envision a future where we do not have to change our hair to fit in or be accepted. I envision a future where young Black girls proudly and boldly embrace their natural hair. Our hair is a part of who we are, and we will walk in freedom.”
“It’s shameful that such an act is required in this country at this time. A part of me doesn’t want to lean into the apathy that resignation elicits. But it is exhausting to think that after all this time, Black people — because this issue transcends Black women — in some arenas are judged more by what’s on their head than what’s inside of it or by the names they carry than their qualifications. I did not expect it to pass, but I am still disappointed.”
Publicist/Founder Kosi Harris PPR
“As a Black woman who has worn locs since the age of seven, I have experienced discrimination from teachers, classmates, at job interviews, and the workplace. There was even a time I pulled my hair back at work so much that it messed up my edges years later. Not having the CROWN Act be passed statewide makes me feel angry, disappointed, but not surprised. There is a pattern in this country where Black Women only matter when there is an important election. This would have been an amazing opportunity to show that Black women matter in this country beyond the polls.”
Director of Social, The Shaderoom Teens
“It’s not just about showing up for national elections. We have a duty to show up for local elections to avoid things like this happening over and over again. It’s disappointing that The Crown Act has been blocked for a second time. We must really intimidate them because why else would you not want to pass a law to protect Black women?”
CEO and founder of Mom's Official Objective and Motherocity
“For me, the subtle question at the office has always been ‘What are you mixed with?,’ which when unpacked always equated to ‘I prefer your hair better when it's straight.’
Before the CROWN Act was introduced in the House of Representatives, I conducted my own inner-office sociological tests, which proved how friendly my colleagues were to me when my hair was straightened rather than curly. I was complimented on my beauty, performance, and weight a few times in fact when my hair hung straight and 24 inches down my back.”
Founder and Creator of WavyWMN
“As the Founder of WavyWMN (pronounced wavy women), it’s important to create spaces for our Black women waver community to sound off and feel seen. Fortunately, the CROWN Act is legal in New York, but what about the other states who aren’t protected? As a Black woman, it’s scary to even imagine that we live in the 21st century and still have to fight for the right to wear our hair proudly.
I’ve had my share of anti-Black hair experiences, as I attended predominantly white schools in Brooklyn. Though interestingly, I wasn’t allowed to wear my hair out in puffs or afros; only braids and twists were allowed. My father, who grew up during the Civil Rights movement, was very proud of his hair and never wanted me to perm my hair. My mother, who immigrated to the states from Jamaica in the 1970s, felt the same. After begging my mom to perm my hair at the age of 12 to fit in, I instantly felt regret. It wasn’t until I learned to love my own hair and forego relaxers nearly a decade ago during my first year of college. I say all this to say, we should be able to love our hair freely and without fear. We shouldn’t have to change our outer appearance in the name of making ourselves more digestible to the public.”
Temple University Student
“As a Black woman, the first thing people notice about me is my hair when I walk into a room. The CROWN Act being blocked allows for the prejudice people may have about Black hair to influence the disproportionate opportunities we as a marginalized group already receive. Perpetuating a society that can discriminate against people based on their hair blocks expression, pride in culture, and economic progression.
As hair is closely tied to Black culture, breaking into spaces that are dominated by non-Black people should not require us to omit what ties us to our communities. Black hair is professional and the way that we choose to style our hair shouldn't be a representation of our value in spaces we have earned. Presentation, although important, should not be a precedent for competence.”
“I know my crown matters, unfortunately it took years for me to appreciate it and now I am fighting for the Senate to do the same. I'm happily a part of the generation that felt like we needed to get our hair pressed straight for a job interview, however, I now look forward to walking into a place of business with knotless braids or a fresh curly twist-out, picked out to perfection.
I will make sure that my daughter loves her curls and embraces them from a very young age. I will also do what I need to do today so that she will never experience a missed opportunity because her hair is curlier than her competition’s. I hope that the Senate will wake up and do the right thing one day.”
“Hearing that the CROWN Act has been blocked for the second time deeply upsets me. I feel a rush of anger and sadness because all this is telling me is that my natural state is not good enough. That coming to society as a Black woman with kinky hair is unbearable. Why is it wrong when people of color come as themselves but when others “cosplay” as us, it’s seen as ok? I hope that justice is found soon and that discrimination in the office and schools is abolished completely.”
“It has been far too long that women and girls from our community have been dealing with discrimination. Our hair symbolizes style, identity, love, and depiction but, most importantly, our history and its historical stories and meanings. From Jill Scott's Golden lyrics: ‘Her hair is like a halo around her head, and it makes you really appreciate the little things. Every kink, curl, or knot in your strands will signify that you are golden.’ And she is right.”
Nationally Syndicated Radio Host
“Earlier in my career while working at a predominantly white radio station, I decided to wear my hair in braids. After only having my new hairstyle four days, my boss suggested I take them out for an upcoming appearance I had scheduled days later. Totally offended and shocked, I remember calling my mother for advice. We discussed all the ramifications of pursuing a possible complaint or lawsuit, so I relented and changed my hairstyle. That situation still stings today for me.
I know all too well the hurt feelings, disbelief, anger, and embarrassment of a job or society regulating Black women's hair. No other race has to lobby for or request that a law be implemented just so they can wear their hair to work freely and unapologetically the way it grows out of their head. It appears as if our authentic selves just aren't good enough for society and that hurts.”
Digital Creator and Founder of Pothos Beauty
“The Senate blocking the CROWN Act for the second time makes me feel boxed in and unable to exist freely in my being as a Black woman.
I know what it feels like to have to erase my identity just so I can pay my bills; to adapt to a desirable look just to have a shot at something; to have to fight for my voice to be heard simply because I do not look like my white peers. I created Pothos Beauty, an inclusive beauty and wellness marketplace, because I got so tired of feeling like I had to erase myself to service. [I wanted] to change narratives that allow people like myself to be — to just be human in any form in which we come in.”