A Florida bill would outlaw ‘natural’ hair discrimination against Black people. It likely won’t even get a hearing.

The CROWN Act bill is poised to fail for a second time in…

A Florida bill would outlaw 'natural' hair discrimination against Black people. It likely won't even get a hearing. 1

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Crown Act Movement: A bill created to prevent hair discrimination

The Crown Act bill was created to prevent Black women, men and children from being discriminated against based on their natural hair.

Erica Van Buren, The Daytona Beach News-Journal

The CROWN Act bill, created to prohibit discrimination against Black men, women and children who choose to wear their hair naturally, appears poised to fail in the Florida Legislature for the second year in a row. 

“We are currently awaiting its first committee hearing,” said District 45 state Rep. Kamia L. Brown, a Democrat and the bill’s House sponsor. “Unfortunately just due to the time (left) in session it probably will not receive a hearing and the bill won’t move over on the House side. It’s unfortunate that the House once again just does not have an appetite to really hear the bill.” 

The CROWN Act bill, or “CROWN,” is an acronym for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.

The CROWN Act is supported by the CROWN Coalition, founded by Dove, the National Urban League, Color Of Change and Western Center on Law and Poverty. The bill aims to eliminate the stigma attached to natural Black hair

Similar bills have been enacted in seven states: Washington, California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland. Two municipalities, Cincinnati and Montgomery County, Maryland, also have passed forms of the CROWN Act. 

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Should HB 179 pass, Florida’s version of the CROWN Act would prohibit hairstyle discrimination in housing, employment and public education. The bill would’ve taken effect July 1. The bill can be re-introduced next session in 2022.

Quanika Jefferson, a Daytona Beach resident, said it’s heartbreaking to her to learn that the CROWN Act bill will likely fail again in Florida. 

“It’s disheartening because this is the hair that I was born with,” said Jefferson, 28. “I’ve been natural for eight years. Since going natural my hair has grown healthier and thicker. I began to research natural hair and doing so has allowed me to love and appreciate myself even more.

“It’s a sense of pride. It’s on my head. It’s an extension of me.”

Brown said Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson set the agenda for bill hearings during the legislative session. Both are Republicans.

The News-Journal reached out to Sprowls’ office via phone and email on Thursday and did not receive a response. 

“He (Sprowls) is the one that decides whether or not a bill gets a hearing or not regardless of whether or not it’s being filed,” said Brown. “It is my hope that at some point before I leave the legislature this bill will receive a hearing.”

Brown, who began her third term this year, said she’s not ready to throw in the towel. 

“This is a bill that we must continue to push in spite of opposition,” said Brown. “There is a need for this bill. We have students who deal with this type of discrimination every day. We have women who deal with discrimination on their jobs every day. This is a bill that you don’t quit on just because no one wants to hear it. It’s one that will unfortunately just have to be brought back to the legislature each year until it can pass here in the state.”

Jefferson said during a recent job interview she felt like her hair was the determining factor as to why she didn’t receive a call back. 

“I was in an interview for a position with (an area bank). I was interviewed by two bank managers,” said Jefferson. “Immediately when I walked in I felt the tension being directed toward my hair. That’s all they stared at the entire interview. I was sweating because I was so nervous. I walked out of the interview with my head held high because I felt like I did well during the interview. They never called me back and I know it was because of my hair.”

Kendra Brown, 32, a retention specialist for Bethune Cookman-University, said the CROWN Act bill needs to be passed into law. 

“We should be able to wear our hair naturally,” she said. “Why can’t I go into the same interview as someone with straight blonde hair, who is considered well put together, yet I’m looked at as being unprofessional? It’s not OK.”

Kendra Brown said it was suggested that she wear wigs over her natural hair in order to look professional. 

“A girl that I know suggested that I purchase a wig to wear since I work in an office,” she said. “She went on to say doing so will prevent my employer from judging me. I consider myself professional. I show up on time, I’m dressed appropriately, my hair is well kept, so why do I need to spend money on a wing? I’m comfortable in my skin.”

She said uplifting other women sporting their natural hair is the key to encouraging others to embrace their natural beauty. 

“If I see a woman with natural hair in general I tell them, ‘I love your hair’,” said Kendra Brown.  

State Rep. Kamia Brown said it was the experience students in her community faced that inspired her to introduce the CROWN Act bill again this year. 

“We have seen students within our school system having issues with their hair,” said Brown, who represents part of Orlando. “I recall this young girl who wore an Afro to one of our local public schools. She was told that her hair was a distraction and she was looking at expulsion. That sparked a movement among women within our local Orlando community to rally around this young, beautiful girl. She’s just one of so many that go to school each day that have issues relating to hair discrimination.”

Brown said a number of people she knows have experienced discrimination based on their natural hair. 

“There are so many injustices that are being done based on hair texture,” said Brown. “I call it being uneducated. It affects our culture and our heritage a lot more than other communities. We’ve had struggles all our life, and so this is just one that I will continue to champion to make sure that we see reform and justice within this silo.”

The representative added that it’s important for businesses to be educated about natural hair. 

“Unfortunately Florida reacts to big business instead of constituents, or the people of Florida,” said Brown. “It’s just the current climate. If we can get big business educated about how these policies need to be changed I think it would make it easier for this bill to go through the Florida Legislature.”

A Florida bill would outlaw 'natural' hair discrimination against Black people. It likely won't even get a hearing. 2


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