File this under the exceedingly slim folder labeled “Good News in 2020": Virginia has become the first Southern state to ban hair discrimination, a law that disproportionately impacts black people and their ability to wear their hair as they please.
As CNN reports, the Commonwealth is now the fourth state in the country to pass legislation tied to the CROWN Act, a movement seeking to ban discrimination against natural and protective hairstyles for black people. Rooted in white supremacist thoughts on what constitutes “professional” or “proper” grooming, policies mandating how students and workers can wear their hair have been used to punish black people rocking afros, ‘locs, twists, braids, and everything in between.
Virginia’s hair bill specifically prohibits discrimination based on “traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.”
In a statement announcing the new bill, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared that the law “will make our Commonwealth more equitable and welcoming for all.
“It’s pretty simple—if we send children home from school because their hair looks a certain way, or otherwise ban certain hairstyles associated with a particular race—that is discrimination,” Northam said. “This is not only unacceptable and wrong, it is not what we stand for in Virginia.”
The passage of the Virginia bill highlights the groundswell of political support for hair discrimination laws. California, New York, and New Jersey all passed their versions of the CROWN act within the last year. And last month, three states—California, Colorado, and Washington—pushed bills through their state legislatures banning hair discrimination in the same week. Local and state governments in 22 states are either considering or have already passed such laws.