Senate Republicans block CROWN legislation again. But the defenders are not discouraged.

A woman with dreadlocks

A woman with dreadlocks, a hairstyle that would be protected by the CROWN Act. (Getty Images)

For the second time, Senate Republicans have blocked a bill that would ban racial hair discrimination, specifically natural, textured hair and protective hairstyles typically worn by African Americans.

The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act aims to protect individuals from unfair treatment in the workplace, in hiring processes, and in schools because of their hair. The legislation did not garner enough support from Senate Republicans to overturn Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster.

“When the CROWN Act was first introduced in the 116th Congress [in 2020], it passed the House by voice vote without objection,” Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, DN.J., who sponsored the bill in the House, said in a news release earlier this month. . “When I reintroduced it last year, it passed the House again, despite Republican efforts to delay it. In both cases, Republican senators blocked passage of the bill.

In a recent study, Michigan State University found that black women suffer the most from hair discrimination and are more likely to be fired from work because of their hair.

“It’s a license to discriminate, especially against black people,” Amanda Jackson, campaign director for Color of Change, an organization that champions racial equality, told Yahoo News.

Research from Duke University shows that black women with natural hairstyles like braids, locs and afros are considered less professional than black women with straight hair.

In an effort to reduce bias and discrimination, Sen. Cory Booker, DN.J., introduced the CROWN Act in the Senate earlier this month, where it was defeated by Paul. While the measure passed the House twice, it was blocked in the Senate each time.

Senator Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., an opponent of the CROWN Act. (Mariam Zuhaib/AP)

“We won’t be deterred by Rand Paul or anyone else. And we will continue to fight and work,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League and founding member of the Crown Coalition, which is made up of several organizations that champion CROWN laws. “It’s disappointing that these lawmakers, at the federal level, don’t have the sensitivity or the foresight to really recognize that the way you do your hair is a matter of free speech,” he told Yahoo News. .

Despite the setback, lawyers and Senate Democrats continue to push for the bill to become law. Following the blockade, 30 members of the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell demanding that the Crown Act be included in year-end funding legislation.

“So far we see that it has not been included. This therefore becomes a fight that we must carry out at the next Congress [and] to the next Congress,” Coleman told Yahoo News.

Advocates say it’s a civil rights issue because studies show 80% of black women are more likely to change their hair to meet standards often set by employers and schools.

“It’s a question of freedom of expression, but it’s [also] a right to control your bodily problem,” Morial said. “And it’s a civil rights issue because traditional or natural hairstyles are treated differently.”

Recently, former first lady Michelle Obama said she didn’t feel comfortable wearing her hair in protective styles while in the White House.

michelle obama

Michelle Obama on a recent book tour. (José Luis Magana/AP)

“As black women we deal with it, the whole thing is you show up with your natural hair? … As first lady, I didn’t wear braids. To be the first – yeah, we had to loosen people up. …I was like, this would be easier. No no. They’re not ready,” Michelle Obama said in an interview during her book tour this month in Washington, DC.

But some lawmakers are against the measure. According to Senator Rand Paul, the use of hairstyles as a form of racial discrimination is already illegal, so the CROWN Act is unnecessary.

Yahoo News reached out to Paul for comment, and a spokesperson highlighted his remarks on the floor. Reading the legislation on December 14, Paul said, “The Supreme Court found in the 1973 case McDonnell Douglas Corp. and subsequently, the protections sought by this bill are already provided for in federal law.

But advocates of the CROWN legislation have argued that existing laws do not sufficiently address discrimination based on hair.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., who spoke in favor of the CROWN Act in the House earlier this year, said Senate Republicans’ blocking of the measure was wrong, but it wasn’t. not surprising.

“Black hair is beautiful, and no amount of racism or ignorance from across the aisle will stop the power of our movement. I won’t stop pushing to end gender-based hair discrimination. race and I urge the Senate to use every legislative avenue to pass this critical bill and send it to President Biden’s office,” Pressley said in a statement.

Rep.  Ayanna Pressley

Representative Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. (Andrew Harnik/Pool via AP)

As lawmakers seek to pass a federal measure, 19 states have passed similar legislation that prohibits race-based hair discrimination.

“We have made great progress since our beginnings in California. This is what is important. The fact that we have made significant progress state by state, because state by state has proven to be more successful than passing national legislation,” Morial said.

Coleman says it’s a shame race-based hair discrimination is still an issue in 2022 and she thinks it will remain an issue in the new year.

“The way you wear your hair says nothing about your ability to compete in a wrestling match, get a job, go to school, get an education, or be an educator,” Coleman said.

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