State lawmakers reintroduce CROWN Act in hopes to ban hair discrimination

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — It’s part of a national movement, already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. Now, Connecticut lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban hair discrimination.

This isn’t the first go-round for this bill; It was introduced last year. Now, they are reintroducing the CROWN Act during Black History Month. It’s short for “An Act Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

“I am currently wearing crown I was born with,” said Christina Jackson, a 13-year-old from Windsor.

It’s unusual to see a teen testify before lawmakers. But Jackson says she was treated unfairly as a young girl in gymnastics classes. She wants the legislature to act on hair discrimination before she grows into the workplace.

“My coaches would constantly tell me that my braids were too floppy when in reality they never restricted my movement in class,” Jackson explained.

Jackson says she was under pressure to transform her natural hair in order to conform to European-based beauty standards.

“We all know that if you want to get the job, you don’t necessarily go in with your afro out,” New Haven state Rep. Robyn Porter (D) said, who is one of the several lawmakers reintroducing the CROWN Act.

“Untidy” and “unprofessional” might not sound like discriminatory words, but advocates say that’s what ends up happening to many Black women in the workplace.

“It’s not just about hair, it’s about choice. It’s about respect,” said Adrienne Cochrane, CEO of the YWCA Hartford Region. “It’s about having the ability to rock your crown in glory however you want to.”

New York, New Jersey and a handful of other states have banned hair discrimination. In Connecticut, Democratic lawmakers say this issue is part of a larger agenda they unveiled in the wake of calls for racial justice.

“We cannot say that we’re attempting to deal with systemic racism if we don’t deal with these equity issues on every front,” said Danbury State Sen. Julie Kushner (D).

When this bill was introduced last year, it was voted out of committee, so it passed the first hurdle. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the proposed bill died during that session.

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