House Dems fail to pass bill banning discrimination against natural hairstyles

March 1 (UPI) — House Democrats have failed to pass legislation to ban discrimination against people with hairstyles that are commonly associated with a particular race or national origin.

The lawmakers on Monday voted 235-188 in favor of the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, but it did not attract enough Republican votes to secure the super-majority needed to approve the legislation upon the fast-track route the Democrats had put it on.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Bonnie Coleman, D-N.J., would specifically prohibit discrimination against those participating in federally assisted programs, including housing, public accommodations and employment, based on the texture of one’s hair or hairstyle.

Coleman in a statement following the vote accused Republicans of succumbing to the climate of division and obstruction by not passing the CROWN Act on the final day of Black History Month.

“Despite this temporary setback — and while I regret that Republicans chose to miss an opportunity to show unity against race-based discrimination — we will bring the CROWN Act back and pass it with a simple majority,” she said. “We won’t allow Republican antics to stand in the way of Black people having the right to live as their authentic selves.”

According to a 2019 JOY Collective study, Black women are 150% more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair compared to other women. It also found that Black women are 83% more likely to report being judged more harshly on their looks.

From the floor, Coleman argued that Black people, particularly women and girls, are discriminated against and deemed unprofessional because their hair doesn’t conform to White beauty standards.

“Our natural hair is as innate a quality of black people as the presence of melanin in our skin. Discrimination against our hair is no different than discrimination against the color of our skin,” she said. “Hair discrimination forces Black people to choose between employment and existing authentically.”

She said Black women are 80% more likely to alter their hair to fit in at their places of work while black students are disproportionally suspended for unapproved hairstyles.

“My bill would eliminate an undue burden that Black women face everyday,” she said. “The methods that Black women use to manipulate their hair are not only costly and time consuming but also damaging to their hair. No body, no body should have to sacrifice their time, their money and the health of their hair to comply with racist standards of professionalism.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, argued against the bill from the floor, stating what the Democrats sought to ban was something that was already unlawful.

“Democrats are passing a bill to prohibit conduct already unlawful under the federal law. A bill that says you can’t discriminate based on hairstyle, which is already unlawful,” he said. “Let’s focus on the issues I think the vast majority of the American people want us to focus on like crime, like the high inflation rate, the 40-year-high inflation rate, like the boarder problem.”

The bill’s co-leads said they will seek the pass the bill again in the coming weeks.

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