New York City passed amendments to ban hair discrimination in February, but now the state has followed suit, lending its legislative weight to the ongoing conversation around hair bias. Prompted by the CROWN Act (SB 188), proposed by Sen. Holly J. Mitchell (D-Calif.), California became the first state to pass anti-hair discrimination legislation on July 3; on July 12, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Assembly Bill 07797, which:
Prohibits race discrimination based on natural hair or hairstyles; defines “race” for certain specific purposes to include, but not be limited to, ancestry, color, ethnic group identification, and ethnic background, and to include traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles; and defines “protective hairstyles” to include, but not be limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.
Not to be confused with the CROWN Act, as reported by Elle, New York’s new bill is actually an amendment to the state’s existing Human Rights Law and Dignity for All Students Act, which took effect in 2012 and stated that racial discrimination extends to “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles.” It also confirms the guidelines set forth by New York City in February, which protects the rights of citizens and visitors to the city to wear “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state” without facing bias.
“For much of our nation’s history, people of color—particularly women—have been marginalized and discriminated against simply because of their hair style or texture,” said Gov. Cuomo of the state’s amendment. “By signing this bill into law, we are taking an important step toward correcting that history and ensuring people of color are protected from all forms of discrimination.”
As the CROWN Coalition, recently joined by Dove, points out, “A Black woman is 80% more likely to change her natural hair to meet social norms or expectations at work; Black women are 50% more likely to be sent home or know of a black woman sent home from the workplace because of her hair.” As the coalition continues to push for anti-hair discrimination legislation across the nation, the example set by two of America’s most powerful and populated states will hopefully have a profound impact in ending hair bias for good.
Updated, 7/19/19, 3:35 p.m. ET: Our friends at Dove reached out to let us know that contrary to reports, New York’s amendment to the existing bill is, in fact, part of The CROWN Act, heretofore referred to as A07797 (The CROWN Act).