On Thursday, the Texas House of Representatives left HB 392 or the CROWN Act pending in the Senate Affairs committee.
If passed, the bill would ban discrimination on the basis of texture or protective styles like twists, locs, braids and knots.
The CROWN Act is a national coalition aimed to protect African-American women and men agaisnt hair discrimination in the workplace and public schools.
In the hearing Rep. Rhetta Bowers, author of the bill, said HB 392 is about protecting people’s civil rights.
“The CROWN Act is not seeking to create a new protected class, it doesn’t interfere at all with OSHA regulations regarding workplace safety, it does not create some litigious environment where people who are not victims are motivated to file frivolous lawsuits and doesn’t cost us anything to do this,” Bowers said.
Dr. Stephanie Boyce, a professor at the University of Houston, testified in the hearing and asked the majority caucasian committee to think about changing their hair from its natural form to come to work.
“Imagine for a second that I was granted the authority to create and enforce a policy requiring each of you today to wear your hair either braided, locked, twisted, or in a curly afro in order to participate in today’s hearing as I deem those professional and appropriate hairstyles,” she said.
Boyce then asked the committee to think about why America’s present concept of beauty is the way it is.
“The truth is America has a long and terrible history of inspecting, appraising, devaluing and forcefully assimilating Black bodies,” Boyce said. “This centering of eurocentric values disregarded the Black body and any african centered physical features as animalistic and thus in need of taming.”
Tashara Parker, WFAA broadcast journalist and natural hair advocate also testified and said she experienced hair discrimination after viewers of the news were emailing her saying her natural hair wasn’t “professional for broadcasting.”
Parker said viewers also told her they found her more attractive with straight hair instead of her natural hair.
“We just want to exist naturally fully,” she said. “Imagine just for a second looking at a woman with straight natural blonde hair and telling her your hair isn’t professional. You know that likely wouldn’t happen.”
In addition to her advocacy, Parker started a WFAA broadcast series “Rooted” which highlights discrimation against black and men and women in the professional workspace.
Parker also said if HB 392 passes it will show the world that Texans don’t tolerate discrimination.
“It will boldly declare to an entire generation that it is okay to show up fully authentically in all spaces,” she said.
Deandre Arnold, a freshman at Louisiana State University, also testified and said he experienced hair discrimination while at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas in 2020.
“My hair is an integral part of my identity and my West Indian heritage,” Arnold said. “My father is from Trinidad and many of the men on my fathers side of the family wear locks.”
Arnold faced in-school suspension and missed his high school graduation after Barber Hills administration said his hair was too long and thus against their dress code policies.
A Houston district court later ruled the Barber Hill’s school district ban of Arnold’s locs as discriminatory.
“Members my grandmother used to always say your crown is your glory and you must take care of it and protect it,” Bowers said.
The CROWN Act has already passed in California, New Jersey, and Virginia.
Kennedy is a recent graduate of the University of St.Thomas in Houston where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Celt Independent. Kennedy brings her experience of writing about social justice issues to the Texas Signal where she serves as our Political Reporter. She does everything from covering crime beats, Texas politics, and community activism. Kennedy is a passionate reporter, avid reader, coffee enthusiast, and loves to travel.