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Celebrating National Crown Day

Melissa Rose Cooper

Jul 1, 2022

Addressing hair discrimination on the job

Black people have long faced discrimination about their natural hair. This Sunday, July 3, is National Crown Day, a day to create a respectful and open world for natural hair. The day was first designated in California two years ago. It’s a story that’s personal to our reporter Melissa Rose Cooper, who spoke with several members of the black community, from lawmakers to salon owners and women with natural hair, about facing discrimination for their hair and what it means to acknowledge and celebrate their beautiful crowns.

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight was one of the many lawmakers who helped the Crown Act get off the ground. Even though she’s never been told her hair wasn’t professional, McKnight knows it’s been the subject of conversation.

“The stares said it all. I knew what they were looking at. They weren’t looking at my eyes they were looking at my hair. And before I cut my hair I wore all different styles from wigs to weaves to braids. So they’ve always been intrigued with my hair. Like, “How, wow, how can you do that, how did you get your hair, can I touch your hair, no you can’t touch my hair,” said McKnight.

It’s an exhausting experience that often makes people question whether to wear their hair naturally. Statistics show Black women are 80% more likely than white women to feel the need to change their hair to fit in at the office, according to 2019 research by JOY Collective. Black women are also 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair. Cooper also struggled with the idea, “especially growing up in a time where little girls like me couldn’t wait to experience what felt like a rite of passage — having straight hair. And because that feeling can stay with children through adulthood.” Rutgers Professor Patricia O’Brien-Richardson says “encouraging hair positivity from a young age is critical.”

There’s now a push to make the Crown Act a federal law. The measure passed in the House back in March and now sits with the Senate.

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