“Discrimination against Black hair and Black hairstyles is [racial] discrimination” – Carmelyn P. Malalis, Former Chair & Commissioner of The NYC Commission on Human Rights.
A deeply personal and overlooked aspect of Blackness in non-Black spaces is hair. Being touched without invitation, being the subject of insensitive discussion, and chastifying its existence is the reality and experiences of having Black hair. The Crown Act, the official campaign led by the CROWN Coalition, seeks to eliminate hair discimination and create a more equitable space for Black bodies. We at The Wrap Life not only value the mission of the CROWN Coalition, but embody it––amplifying Black voices and causes for the betterment of Black lives and their wellbeing.
Here are six important things you need to know about hair discrimination, and how The Crown Act seeks to eradicate it:
01. Who are the co-founders of the CROWN Coalition?
The CROWN Coalition was founded in 2019 by four brilliant Black women: Adjoa B. Asamoah, a decorated political and social impact strategist; Esi Eggleston Bracey, the Executive Vice President/COO of Beauty and Personal Care at Unilever NA; Orlena Nwokah Blanchard, the President of JOY Collective; and Kelli Richardson Lawson, the CEO of JOY Collective. The coalition makes the strong claim of being the first to seek legal recourse for hair discrimination. Although the natural hair movement is decades old, the CROWN Coalition wanted a legislative path that would hold people accountable for their prejudice.
02. What is The Crown Act?
The Crown Act, (Creating a Respectful and Open World for No Racism) “addresses unfair grooming policies that have a disparate impact on Black women, men and children and has drawn attention to cultural and racial discrimination taking place within workplaces and public charter schools. The CROWN Coalition members believe diversity and inclusion are key drivers of success across all industries and sectors.” Essentially, The Crown Act is a bill that protects Black Americans from hair discrimination in workplaces, schools, public areas, and other day-to-day places that don’t necessarily gear to create safe spaces.
03. Where has it passed?
As of 2021, The Crown Act has only passed in 14 U.S. states including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington, Wisconsin. Four additional U.S. states have successfully enacted legislation inspired by The Crown Act including Oregeon, New Mexico, Nebraska, and Illinois. This means hair discrimination is legally tolerable in 32 U.S. states.
04. When will The Crown Act pass in my state?
As of November 2021, legislation has been filed in Massachusetts with powerful testimony. As for the remaining 31 U.S. states, legislation has not passed or was never filed to begin with. States where it did not pass are Arizona, Utah, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas (Nnenna Stella, founder of The Wrap Life’s own home state)*, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, West Virginia, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island. U.S. states where legislation has not been filed at all are: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaiia, and Ohio. However, don’t fret right away if you see your home state among the ones listed above––there are 34 counties and counting where The Crown Act has been enacted. You can find that list of cities here.
05. What can I do to support The CROWN Coalition and get The Crown Act introduced/passed in my state?
- Contact your states’ senator and demand the bill be introduced
- Sign the petition which aims to unify lawmakers around the country on The Crown Act
- If you have the resources, you can introduce the bill in your own U.S. state. You can find the template here and receive help from Adjoa B. Asamoah herself
- Join the coalition
06. What are some resources to report hair discrimination?
Maybe you witnessed a snide comment about someone’s hair in the workplace, maybe your teacher continues to touch your hair without your permission, maybe a store clerk refused to service you… no matter the situation, if you or someone you know feels discriminated against, it must be taken seriously. It may be incredibly hard and difficult, and you may feel no one will believe your story, but, there are incredible resources available to you and anyone you know who is battling hair discrimination.
Learn more about the incredible research being done over at The CROWN coalition.
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
The Wrap Life is a black-owned head wrap company founded by Nnenna Stella. Along with amplifying Black voices and causes, we engage in digital storytelling that empowers Black folk to embrace their Blackness through artisan crafted products (bandies, turbans, head wraps) and accessible head wrap tutorials that compliment and assist Black hair and uplift Black beauty and comfort.
- Underwood, Khalea. “Crown Coalition • Ebony.” EBONY, 29 Nov. 2021.
- “About.” The Official CROWN Act.
- Author, Dove. “The Crown Act: Working to Eradicate Race-Based Discrimination.” Dove US, 1 July 2021.
- “Crown Act Passes in California.” The Official CROWN Act
- MultiState. “The Crown Act Looks to Protect Hair Styles from Discrimination.” MultiState.
- nowthismedia. “How These Women Got Hair Discrimination Outlawed in NYC | Nowthis.” YouTube, YouTube, 16 June 2019.
About the author
Bianca Cruz, wearing our Pleated Head Wrap in Coco
Bianca Cruz is a Wrap Life model and editorial assistant at Clarkson Potter. She graduated from Hunter College in New York City with a bachelor’s degree in English Language Arts with a minor in German. Following her internship at Oxford University Press, Bianca attended the Columbia Publishing Course and now attends the Institute of Culinary Education where she is currently pursuing her dreams of becoming a Chef.