Over the last few years, there has been a shift in the Black community, with more men and women moving away from the European standards of beauty and embracing their natural bodies, facial features, melanated skin, and—very significantly—their natural hair. But while this type of awakening has been celebrated across the diaspora, many corporate entities and school boards have been less than enthused about this newfound self-love.
Across the United States, and even in countries with a majority-Black population like Jamaica, Black people have faced discrimination for wearing their natural hair in braids, afros, locs, and other styles that have formed part of Black culture and the universal Black identity.
But this kind of discrimination can no longer take place in Broward County, home to a significant percentage of Jamaican-Americans in Florida—at least not without consequences.
On December 1, Broward became the first in the state of Florida to ban racially-based hair discrimination. The county commission unanimously agreed to pass the legislation, showing support for the CROWN Act.
The CROWN Act was created in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN Coalition to ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools. The Act was first introduced in California in January 2019 and signed into law in July 2019.
The ban forces employers and school administrators to reconsider rules restricting hairstyles unless the restrictions are related to legitimate health and safety issues.
Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, a native of Jamaica, was responsible for pushing the legislation. Holness says the act has changed the look of success in Broward County.
“We live in a Eurocentric society that basically asks that your hair be straight and that you look Eurocentric in order to be successful. I know Rastaman will love this because they can wear their locs and get work without behind discriminated against,” Holness said, adding that “you still have to maintain your hair in a neat way, but you can’t be denied work because of your hair.”
MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid shared her support of his ordinance of the CROWN Act.
“It’s really important that states and localities pass versions of the CROWN Act so that there isn’t that kind of discrimination. That way you can have a wide variety of talent that can be part of every workplace or where they live so people don’t feel discriminated for something that is truly embedded in who we are as Black people,” she said in a video statement.
Reid also revealed that as a college graduate living in New York years ago, she was often refused work because her employers did not believe that braids were “an appropriate hairstyle for work,” and at that time, it was “perfectly legal.”
At the state level, a Florida Senate bill died in the judiciary in March. There is more hope at the federal level. The House passed a bill on September 21, which is now awaiting review by the Senate.
California, New York, New Jersey, Washington State, Colorado, Maryland and Virginia have also passed similar bans. Holness says he hopes that other communities in the state will adopt this kind of policy.