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California is first U.S. state to respect black people’s hair at the workplace and school

July 09, 2019 at 12:00 pm | News

Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei | Head of Content

July 09, 2019 at 12:00 pm | News

A New Jersey high school wrestler who was forced to cut off his dreadlocks or risk forfeiting a match last year.

Early this year, New York City passed a law making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their hair in the workplace or at school. This was well received by the black community which is fighting for inclusion.

Now, in the west of the U.S., California has passed a state-wide law banning employers and school officials from discriminating against people based on their natural hair.

Passed on July 3, Crown Act was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, making it illegal to enforce dress code or grooming policies against hairstyles such as afros, braids, twists, and locks, reports CNN.

“Workplace dress code and grooming policies that prohibit natural hair, including afros, braids, twists, and locks, have a disparate impact on black individuals as these policies are more likely to deter black applicants and burden or punish black employees than any other group,” the law stated.

“This law protects the right of Black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms. I am so excited to see the culture change that will ensue from the law,” said Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Holly Mitchell, who introduced the bill earlier this year.

The new law takes effect on January 1, 2020, and it is expected to address policies that have been unfair to black people and women.

There has been a wave of campaigns around the world against discrimination of people based on their natural hair. In April, a section of students and educators in the Dominican Republic wore their Afro-hair to school and work in protest after a student in the eastern region of the country was sent home for donning her natural hair to school.

Weeks earlier, Black Hollywood actors used the hashtag #ActingWhileBlack to bring to the fore Hollywood’s racial inequalities when it comes to black natural hair and makeup for dark skin. It trended after actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II reacted to model Olivia Anakwe’s frustration during the Paris Fashion Week where she took to Instagram to criticize hairstylists who can’t do black hair at fashion shows.

Last year, the campaign against discrimination based on natural hair heightened after a viral video showed a New Jersey high school wrestler being forced by a referee to cut off his dreadlocks or risk forfeiting his match because his natural hair and headgear weren’t in compliance with regulations.

The referee in question, Alan Maloney, who has a racist history was suspended pending further investigations by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA).

Despite the unfortunate incident, the student, who was visibly distraught when his locks were being cut off went ahead to win the match.

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