The Crown Act is a step towards protecting women’s rights to wearing their crowns loud and proud

In early 2019,  the State of New York banned hair discrimination in the workplace and in schools. Later that year, in July 2019, California became the first state to enact a law that made it illegal to discriminate against employees because of the way they wear their hair, more specifically their curly hair.  This act was appropriately named the Crown Act

Two women came together to start the needed conversation

The discrimination ban in New York came after Raelene Roberts, an employee at Sally Hershberger, a high profile salon in Manhattan, and several of her coworkers, filed complaints against their employer. Soledad O’Brien covered this story on her Matter of Fact TV program. For many years, there has been discrimination toward people of color who wear their hair naturally and in styles such as afros, braids, twists, cornrows, and locs (short for dreadlocks).

When asked, Roberts says, “I first realized my hair was an issue for Sharon Dorram and the workers there (at the salon) when I asked for an evaluation from the general manager. The only negative feedback he gave me was that my hair wasn’t straight enough. Even though I already straightened it with a flat iron, he said it needed to be a little bit straighter.” 

She later goes on to say, “I felt hurt. I felt like, why am I working here? Why do you want me to work here if you don’t like who I present myself as? […] I wish Sharon Dorram asked me why I wore my hair the way I wore it instead of saying I need to change it. Understand why we wear our hair this way. She could have just educated herself by asking me those questions.”

Different is still beautiful

Roberts loves her natural hair and says that it makes her feel confident, gives her freedom, and makes her feel stylish and unlike anyone else. She also has fond memories of her hair being done by her older sisters when she was a young child. Roberts goes so far as to say that her natural hair brings back wonderful from her childhood. She said, “When we were growing up, every time I got my hair done by one of my sisters, you know, it brought us together, like sitting in the kitchen, with grandma, you know, doing our hair, it’s memories. It’s good memories.”

You can be even more inspired by Raelene Roberts by watching this video, where she talks about her love for her natural hair and the unfairness of the discrimination she faced while working at the salon. 

The work is not finished yet

Hair discrimination endured by people of color in America, especially African Americans, but also by curly-haired women of caucasian descent, is something that not only affects employees at work but also children attending school. Over the years, there have been many news stories about the discrimination children have faced while at school because of how they wear their natural hair.  As a mom of a curly-haired child, I can personally attest to the negative and harmful remarks made to children about their curly hair.

“This is not a grooming issue, this is a human rights issue,” said Ria Tabacco Mar, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU.  ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, is a nonprofit organization founded in 1920 whose stated mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

Not long ago, the ACLU defended a pair of twin girls from Massachusetts, who were banned from their extracurricular activities because they wore box braids and extensions. 

Discrimination is not a new concept

Through the years, black students everywhere have faced discrimination for their natural hair. Certain traditional natural styles, such as locs and afros, have been banned entirely, and some students have been asked to cut or straighten their hair to fit the dress code policies at their schools. Many students have also been banned from school events, such as prom, because of their natural hairstyles.   

The Crown Act and similar bans are definitely a step in the right direction, and now it is more important than ever that our children know they are beautiful and equal to everyone else, regardless of the way they style their hair. Hair is just one of the ways to show self-expression, and we should allow children to do so without them being treated differently because of it. So make sure your curly girly always knows she is beautiful, and her hair is just one more thing that makes her special.

The importance of Curly Confidence

Hair discrimination can be subtle or overt.  When I first began the curly girly movement, nearly 3 years ago, I  received an email from a mother all across the globe, detailing the bullying her 7-year-old daughter endured because of her curly locks.  My own child has come home in tears more times than I care to remember because one child or another is discussing her hair or saying it looks messy or asking if her mommy “forgot”  to brush her hair today. These behaviors remind me of fat-shaming and name-calling and they cannot be tolerated. Here at Curlee Girlee, we want to empower curly girls to love themselves just as they.  In Curlee Girlee’s much-awaited sequel, Curlee Girlee’s Got Talent, Curlee Girlee demonstrates her creativity and individuality making her a role model for girls of all hair textures.  Women with straight locks (myself included!) often cannot fully relate or even understand the pain associated with these particular types of negative remarks and how they impact one’s self-image. I confess that until I found myself a mother to a curly girl I did not fully appreciate the impact hair can have on one’s self-esteem. But like any feature that is somewhat different, we have the power to elevate or degrade.  If you are a mom to a curly girl teach your child to embrace who she is! At Curlee Girlee we now have personalized t-shirts for all curly girls so they can proudly wear their hair and declare I am a Curlee Girlee

Educate yourself so you can teach the people around you

It is also an excellent idea to take the time with your curly girly to learn how to best style her hair in a way that she loves and makes her feel comfortable and confident, and also to learn what products work best to achieve this. An amazing book to own is Natural Hair Care: 125+ Homemade Hair Care Recipes And Secrets, to help you and your daughter on her journey to loving her natural hair if she doesn’t already. There are also many amazing products created specifically with natural hair and styles in mind, such as African Pride’s Black Castor Miracle Gel, which was created just for braid, loc and twist styles, and check out our recent article, 3 Best Natural Products for Curly Hair

Hair discrimination is a big issue, and we are so happy that these issues are being brought to light, and that States on each Coast are beginning to do take a stand. This discrimination and singling-out of our children is incredibly detrimental to their happiness, body image, and confidence. We need to tell our children from a young age that they are beautiful no matter what, and here are Five Things to Do or Say if Your Daughter is Showing Signs of Hating Her Curly Hair. 

The conversation is started, but it is not over

Our children should grow up in a world that will accept them for who they are, and allow them to be as comfortable and confident as they can in their own skin. The Crown Act, as well as inspirational, strong women like Raelene Roberts, are putting the world in the right direction, and hopefully, this is just the beginning of a movement where we can all embrace and learn to love our hair and ourselves.  Listen to our podcast with Gil Zamora of Dove Real Beauty Sketches. The next generation of women will naturally follow in these footsteps. 

Buy the Curlee Girlee books here and subscribe on our website for ways to empower your daughter.

Atara Twersky, Author of Curlee Girlee is a TODAY Show Style Icon. Her mission is to teach girls to embrace the beautiful curls they have with power and confidence. Join us as together we change the “coarse” of curly hair. Don’t forget to check out our recent article on What to Do or Say if Your Daughter is Showing Signs of Hating Her Curly Hair.

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