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The House of Representatives Passes the CROWN Act

The bill, which would ban race-based hair discrimination and provide necessary protection against housing and employment prejudice, will head to the Senate next.
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Just when it seemed like the news cycle had become fully incapable of offering up any positivity, a significant bright spot: On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the CROWN Act.

The legislation, which stands for "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair," seeks to ban race-based hair discrimination in employment, housing programs and public accommodations. Led by Democrats, the House passed the initiative with a 235-189 vote along party lines.

This is a significant moment in the fight to upend a long, enduring history of race-based discrimination pertaining to hair in the U.S. From schools and sports teams to employers and housing programs, the discriminatory regulation and policing of Black hair — whether explicit or de facto — is rampant in American culture.

"Natural Black hair is often deemed 'unprofessional' simply because it does not conform to White beauty standards," Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, who sponsored the bill, said in a public statement. "Discrimination against Black hair is discrimination against Black people."

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The CROWN Act, which would prohibit "discrimination based on an individual's texture or style of hair," also provides the specific context that "routinely, people of African descent are deprived of educational and employment opportunities." By establishing a specific legal framework to prevent against discrimination, the measure seeks to put an end to centuries of racist policies limiting traditional protective and natural hairstyles such as cornrows, Afros, Bantu knots, locs and braids.

"As a Black woman who loves my braids, I know what it's like to feel isolated because of how I wear my hair," said Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri on Friday, addressing the House ahead of the vote. "This is the last time we say no more to Black people being demeaned and discriminated against for the same hairstyles that corporations profit from. No more to Black people being made to feel like we have cut our locs just to get a job. This is the last time we say no more to Black people being made to feel like we have to straighten our hair to be deemed professional."

The CROWN Act has been led by the CROWN Coalition, founded by Dove, the National Urban League, Color of Change and the Western Center on Law & Poverty. It has the White House's support and will now head to the Senate, where it's being sponsored by Democratic Sen. Cory Booker. 

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