SACRAMENTO (CBSLA) – California is now the first state in the country to ban racial discrimination based on natural hair.
A Southland lawmaker's bill to prevent workplace hair-grooming rules that discriminate against styles favored by people of color was signed Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
State Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), who authored SB 188, was on hand as Newsom signed the bill - known as "The CROWN Act: Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair - into California law.
SB 188 states that "hair has historically been one of many determining factors of a person's race, and whether they were a second class citizen, hair today remains a proxy for race. Therefore, hair discrimination targeting hairstyles associated with race is racial discrimination."
"Despite the great strides American society and laws have made to reverse the racist ideology that Black traits are inferior, hair remains a rampant source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences, especially for Black individuals," the bill's text reads.
Under the bill, the term "race" is expanded to include "traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles" and covers such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists
Mitchell called the bill an issue of "personal dignity" and "personal rights".
Newsom says he first became aware of the issue last year when a high school student in New Jersey competing in a wrestling event was told to cut his dreadlocks or risk forfeiting the match.
"His dignity being exposed, his decision whether or not to lose an athletic competition or lose his identity came into, I think, stark terms for millions of Americans that never had that opportunity," said Newsom.
SB 188 was sponsored by a coalition comprised of the National Urban League, Western Center on Law & Poverty, Color Of Change and the Dove personal care brand, according to Mitchell.
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