Dear CROWN Coalition,
The Black Women’s Health Imperative (BWHI) is proud to support The CROWN Act.
Established originally as the National Black Women’s Health Project in 1983, the BWHI is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and wellness of our nation’s Black women and girls –physically, emotionally and financially. Our core mission is advancing health equity and social justice for Black women, across the lifespan, through policy, advocacy, education, research, and leadership development. We identify the most pressing health issues that affect the nation’s 21 million Black women and girls and invest in the best strategies, affiliates, and organizations that share our goal: ensuring Black women live longer, healthier, and more prosperous lives.
The CROWN Act, the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair (CROWN), corrects an inconsistency in existing anti-discrimination laws by amending Government and Education Codes to protect against discrimination based on traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and protective hairstyles, in workplaces and in schools.
Despite great strides made by people, legislators, and courts to reverse and resolve the long-lasting damaging effects of racism, hair remains a source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences, especially for Black people. This sort of discrimination is fostered by purportedly “race neutral” grooming and dress code policies in the workplace and in schools that promote a Eurocentric image of professional hair. An image of professionalism that holds European features as the norm disparately affects individuals who do not naturally fall into that model. Black children and adults, adhering to such grooming policies, often feel compelled to employ styling practices to alter the natural characteristics of their hair, including time-consuming heat straightening and chemical permanent relaxers and other things which can lead to hair damage and hair loss. Moreover, for many Black people, braids, locs, and twists, also known as “protective hairstyles,” are essential for healthy hair maintenance.
Additionally, while anti-discrimination laws presently protect the choice to wear an afro, afros are not the only natural presentation of Black hair. The CROWN Act will ensure protection
against discrimination based on hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and various Education Codes across the U.S.
Including hair texture and protective hairstyles in the definition of “race” will prohibit an employer from withholding or terminating employment or promotion based on discrimination against the protected employee or applicant’s hairstyle. It will also prevent schools from disrupting a child’s education based on the way they wear their hair. These protections will help mitigate the unfair scrutiny and significant injustices Black people face because of their hair.
For this reason, we are proud to support the CROWN Act nationwide to ensure an end to hair-based discrimination across the entire U.S.
Linda Goler Blount
President & CEO
Black Women’s Health Imperative