Virginia is the fourth state, and the first state in the south, to enact a law that prohibits discrimination against a person's hair, The Guardian reports.
The Crown Act went into effect Wednesday. It protects hair textures, hair type and hairstyles like braids and twists.
“A person’s hair is a core part of their identity. Nobody deserves to be discriminated against simply due to the hair type they were born with, or the way in which they choose to wear it,” Delores McQuinn, a state delegate and the bill’s lead sponsor, said as the bill passed.
During the bill signing, Virginia governor Ralph Northam said disciplining kids and adults in schools and workforces for wearing natural hair was “not only unacceptable and wrong” but “not what [they] stand for in Virginia.”
Carmen Davis told The Guardian she changed her hair to its natural look when she was in college in 2014. She said she faced backlash for her decision.
“My roommate in college stopped talking me,” she said. “She told me it was embarrassing to be seen with me and that I’d regret it.”
Now, she is a natural hairstylist. She helps women transition from chemically treating their hair. Her ex-roommate is now a client.
She said in a southern state, like Virginia, having natural hair could mean being denied a job or being socially judged.
“Society overall frowns upon Black hair, but here it can still be uncommon for people to embrace it because of judgment or just the every day exhaustion of having to explain your Blackness,” she said.
The Guardian reached out to more than a dozen Black Virginians who wear their hair naturally. Many shared stories of bullying, professional pushback and other incidents of discrimination because of their hair.
A popular local artist Bimi, who has waist-length locs, said Virginia’s Crown Act “could pave the way for more southern states to jump on the bandwagon and be on the right side of history.”
She said she remembers showing up for a job interview only to be told there were no openings.
The first Crown Act, which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, was signed into law in California a year ago on Friday. New Jersey and New York followed.
The law was enacted after incidents of kids being disciplined at school, or employees fired, simply for wearing dreadlocks, braids or afros.
Black men say they also face stigmas with their hairstyles.
“You’re judged as a threat, a hoodlum or a thug,” said Marcos Johnson, an entrepreneur who wore dreadlocks for 8 years before switching to braids. “Whether we have to get a job, go to court, submit documents, it doesn’t matter. One of the first things men here will do when they go is cut their hair.”
He said it can still be dangerous for a Black person to style their hair naturally in some rural places.
But more states are considering putting an end to hair discrimination. Colorado became the fifth state to pass a version of the Crown Act and 13 states are discussing similar legislation, The Guardian reports.
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