What Everyone Should Know About the CROWN Act

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This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

First introduced in California in January 2019 and then signed into law on July 3 that year, the inaugural CROWN Act stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The mission is to expand the definition of race in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Code to ensure protection in workplaces and K-12 public and charter schools and end hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots.

Last week on March 18, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill with a vote of 235–189, taking this important legislation another step closer to being made a federal law. The bill now moves to the Senate for a vote, and in the meantime, President Biden has also expressed his support: A statement from his Executive Office says, “The President believes that no person should be denied the ability to obtain a job, succeed in school or the workplace, secure housing, or otherwise exercise their rights based on a hair texture or hairstyle.”

Esi Eggleston Bracey, chief operating officer and executive vice president of beauty and personal care for Unilever, as well as a passionate advocate of the CROWN Act, says “Hair discrimination has impacted the Black community for far too long, and the support and excitement over the CROWN Act lets us know that we are on the right path and making a difference. To date, the CROWN Act has been passed in 12 states and 23 municipalities with an additional two states who have passed legislation inspired by the CROWN Act. These are huge wins, and they signal the absolute importance of the protection that the CROWN Act provides.”

According to research conducted by Dove, one of Unilever’s core brands that cofounded the CROWN Coalition to advance the Act’s legislation, Black women are 80 percent more likely than white women to feel the need to change their hair from its natural state to fit in at the office; Black women are 30 percent more likely to be made aware of a formal workplace appearance policy; and Black women are one and a half times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair.  

Dove also recently announced a partnership with Grammy award–winning popstar Lizzo to further spread word about the cause. “As someone who has been personally impacted by the work Dove has been doing for years to challenge societal standards and give space to authentic representations of beauty, I could not be more excited to partner with them on the work they do for the Black community to end race-based hair discrimination and support the CROWN Act,” Lizzo says. “Progress has been made, but there’s more work to be done, and I am ready to work alongside Dove to continue to change beauty for the better.”

Other cofounding members of the CROWN Coalition include Color of Change, National Urban League and Western Center on Law & Poverty, and their efforts help create a more equitable world for Black women, men and children. In 2020, the CROWN Act was considered in the following states but did not become law: Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wisconsin. To sign the CROWN Act petition, click here—you can also visit TheCrownAct.com for a templated email to send your local legislators to see action in your state.

“The CROWN Act has been an important vessel for so many women, that’s why to celebrate we want women to #PassTheCROWN and stand in solidarity against hair discrimination,” adds Eggleston Bracey. O”ur work isn’t done, but we’ve accomplished so much in the first year that the only way to go is up.”

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