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Today is National Crown Day in the US. Here’s why it’s important

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Hanna Ibraheem
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Woman walking down street

It marks the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Crown Act.

The Crown Coalition has declared today [3 July] the first ever National Crown Day in the US.

Marking the first anniversary of the signing of the CROWN Act, National Crown Day is a day to stand in solidarity with black people and the right to wear their natural hair without fear of discrimination.

The CROWN Act, which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”, is a law that makes race-based hair discrimination illegal. This includes discrimination in the workplace and the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles.

On 3 July 2019, California became the first state to ban hair discrimination. Since then, New York, Washington, Colorado, Maryland and Virginia have also passed the CROWN Act as law. 

Nine states are currently considering the law, while it was filed in 14 states and did not pass. For the others, it has not been filed or passed. 

This means it is still legal to discriminate against somebody simply because of their natural hair and their choice to wear traditionally black hairstyles.

The Crown Coalition, which was founded by US organisations Dove, Color of Change, National Urban League and Western Center on Law & Poverty, is asking people to sign its petition to end hair-based discrimination in states that have not yet passed the CROWN Act.

The need for the CROWN Act to pass in all states is clear. A study by Dove found that 80% of black women feel they have to change their hair from its natural state to fit in at the office. Additionally, black women are 30% more likely to be made aware of a formal workplace appearance policy and 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair.

If you think these issues lie only in America, you’re mistaken. Many cases across the UK have seen children discriminated against and sent home from school because of their natural hair.

In 2016, Ruby Williams was sent home from school and told her hair breached its uniform policy. Williams took legal action against The Urswick School in east London and received an out-of-court settlement in February earlier this year.

The case attracted widespread attention and led Emma Dabiri, academic, broadcaster and author of Don’t Touch My Hair, to create a petition calling for the 2010 Equality Act to include explicit protection for afro hair.

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On the petition, Dabiri writes: “Hair is not specifically mentioned anywhere in the 251 page document. This has created a grey area; whilst afro hair technically falls under the definition of a ‘protected characteristic’, without being explicitly named, in practice, it is all too easily discriminated against (as the frequency of exclusions for black hair styles demonstrates).

“The absence of hair as a protected characteristic reveals the cultural bias at play in the law, and demonstrates a blind spot that ignores one of the defining features of blackness.” At the time of writing, Dabiri’s petition sits just below 56,000 signatures.

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Workplace discrimination is illegal in the UK but the lines are blurred when it comes to race-based hair discrimination. Meaning petitions it’s important we support petitions like Dabiri’s.

In celebration of the new US national holiday, the Crown Coalition is hosting a series of virtual content and conversations throughout the day.

This will include Tracee Ellis Ross talking about her natural hair journey, Elaine Welteroth and celebrity hair stylist Vernon Francois sharing hairstyling tips and a discussion on Oscar-winning short film Hair Love with the movie’s director Matthew Cherry and producer Karen Rupert Toliver.

You can discover the whole line-up here – but keep in mind, timings are Eastern Time (EST), meaning it’s five hours behind the UK. 

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