Protect the CROWN at All Costs

The ability to be unapologetically “you” in every space is one of the greatest feelings. Often in the workplace and in schools, people find themselves having to put on facades to make themselves more acceptable in the lens of society; however, in 2019, a group of Black women came together to declare enough is enough. Esi Egglston Bracey, Kelli Richardson Lawson, Orlena Nwokah Blanchard, and Adjoa B. Asamoah created The CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” a law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots.

In a research study by Dove CROWN in 2021 for girls, 35 percent of Black girls stated that “negative comments about my hair make me feel bad about myself.” 81 percent of Black girls in majority-white schools say they sometimes wish their hair was straight. When speaking with the mothers of these girls, 47 percent of black mothers have reported they have experienced discrimination related to their hair. Among those black mothers, 81 percent remember that experience happening by the time they were twelve years old. As a young black woman venturing her way through adulthood, I can attest to these same feelings. I, too, used to wish for long and straight hair, rather than coarse hair that shrinks up. As a Black woman who has gone through my own natural hair journey, I now appreciate and love my natural hair and can feel comfortable wearing it in work spaces. There are still some predispositions associated with Black hair, but this Act has made several steps in the right direction.

Qkirajah Robinson, a Black woman who is an Administrative Specialist with her company, has mixed feelings about the CROWN Act. “Half of me loves the empowerment it brings. As one of the four Black women in my office, it brings me great joy to do what my white counterparts can’t, especially in terms of hair. It does boost my confidence when I come to work with yet another fabulous, natural style.” However, Ms. Robinson states there is a flip side to being able to freely rock her natural tresses in various styles. “Those who know me know I love changing my hair as much as possible. Subsequently, the blatant ignorance shown and the amount of times I’ve had to encounter entitled, insensitive coworkers when it comes to just my hair alone is really mind blowing… What the Crown Act did for black people is truly phenomenal. However, I do feel it is just a small step towards fighting against discrimination.”

Stacia Crawley, a Community Development Coordinator with her company, is proud of what the CROWN Act has accomplished and she also loves the extended and assured freedom. “My hair for me expresses more than fashion. While I love nothing more than to style my hair differently every 2-3 weeks, I also use my hair to express my emotions. Box braids to me aren’t just a protective style. They also serve as something I can trust that once I have installed these braids, I can save time getting ready and do things that I really need to do like working out; it is a safety net to say the least… The attachment that I have to my hair is a love of one’s self that isn’t taught much to women like me.”On the opposite side, Ms. Crawley is upset that this act had to be created in the first place. “It sickens me to the core that we are shunned for being ourselves. It makes me upset knowing that we have to have laws passed for people to accept us for who we are and then having to turn around and accept ourselves for who we are.”

The strength connected to the Black woman and her hair is something that is unmatched. Our hair is a standard of beauty. It helps us express ourselves and allows us to share our creativity with others for their viewing pleasure. The CROWN act definitely has made an impact on myself being a Black woman with locs in the workplace. I have always loved my natural hair, but knowing that I can be me and no repercussions come with that is great. I salute the four beautiful Black women who saw it as a necessity to create this act. May Black girls and women love their hair and wear it how they want unapologetically and without repercussions.

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