LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11) - California could make history by becoming the first state to protect the rights of people with braided, twisted and locked hair.
A senator who represents parts of Los Angeles is leading this effort.
FOX 11’s Leah Uko sat down with Senator Holly Mitchell and others who said they were discriminated against for wearing their hair in its natural state.
“Natural hair” may be one of the most talked about topics in the Black community.
Women and men often encourage each other to embrace their kinky and curly hair textures. But doing this is much harder for Black women and men, who historically have spent a lot of time and money to make their hair straight by using chemicals and flat irons.
Morrie Jacks was one of those people once upon a time.
“I would say that my grandmother’s generation, even my mom’s generation a little bit, ‘get back in the house. Your hair’s not done.’ Like something was wrong with us or something like that,” she told Uko.
Jacks struggled with loving her real hair as a child. In college, she took an internship in Africa, which changed her entire perspective.
“It was the first time I saw beautiful Black women, all different hues and darker hues with their heads either shaved or locked or twisted with knots in it or bantu knots,” she continued. “It was just an enlightenment and something new and something awakened me and—I’m fine.”
The actress and real estate agent decided to permanently put her hair “locks”, formerly called dreadlocks.
Embraced in Africa, but rejected when returned home to the United States.
“I’ve been told that it is not a professional look or if I were to be considered for the job, what would I be doing with,” she gestured to her hair. “They’ll do like a hand.”
She continued with a story regarding a time she was on a job interview.
“We have a certain look here that—and they’ll speak of the look and so, would I be able to embrace the look of their company.”
Jacks kept her long locks.
Now, Senator Holly J. Mitchell is encouraging others to do the same.
“The notion of what’s professional in the workplace is really based on our Eurocentric perception of what’s beauty and what’s professional.”
Mitchell introduced Senate Bill 188, the “CROWN Act”, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair”.
It will forbid employers from reprimanding people, like herself, for wearing their hair in braids, twists and locks.
“Up until very recently, if you Googled images for ‘unprofessional hair’, images of Black women, exclusively, in our natural glory, in our natural hair popped up. And so that suggested to me that we have education to do and we have work to do,” Mitchell said.
In December 2018, a New Jersey high school referee was benched after forcing a wrestler to either cut his locks or forfeit his match.
In August 2018, a sixth grader was seen on video crying as she left her classroom after being told her braided hair extensions violated school rules.
Similar episodes took place in Florida where a 6-year-old was sent home on his first day of school because his hair was locked.
In Boston, twin sisters were forced to serve detention for wearing their hair braided.
Now steps are being taken in California to make sure these incidents do not occur in the state.
“I think, we’re going to use this as a public education campaign. And second, to make sure that this isn’t an issue that prevents me from getting a job,” Mitchell said.
If the CROWN Act becomes law, California will be the first state to ban banning protective hairstyles in professional and educational institutions. It passed the senate judiciary committee and the Senate floor in April.
It is expected to go to the assembly judiciary committee for a vote in June 2019.