A New Jersey Assembly committee approved a bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their hairstyle or texture.
The bill strengthens the State’s Laws Against Discrimination which already prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. Democratic State Assemblywoman Angela McKnight proposed the bill to add “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles,” like braids after a high school referee forced a wrestler to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit his match this summer.
“Unfortunately, it’s all too common for African-Americans and people of color to be subjected to discrimination at work or school for wearing their hair in braids, twists, and dreadlocks or embracing their natural curls,” McKnight said in a statement, according to NJ Advance Media.
Andrew Johnson, a wrestler with Buena Regional High School, was forced to chop his locs so he could continue wrestling. Had this ban been in place, Johnson would have had the law on his side.
McKnight told NJ Advance Media that she teared up at the images of Johnson having his hair cut.
On Monday, New Jersey Assembly’s Labor Committee unanimously approved the bill 8-0. It now must be voted on by the entire Assembly and State Senate and signed off on by Gov. Phil Murphy before it becomes part of the amended discrimination laws.
Democratic Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson said in a statement released to NJ Advance Media that it infringes on cultural identity to demand anyone wear their hair to conform with some other group’s expectations.
“If a person of color wants to embrace their cultural identity by wearing their hair in a certain style, they should be free to do so without fear of prejudice,” Reynolds-Jackson said. “No one should be told to straighten, cut or change their hair in any way to meet certain norms. It’s time we enshrine these values into our law.”
It appears New Jersey is in good company. Other states, like New York and California, are also passing guidance to protect natural and protective hairstyles often worn by Black people and other people of color.
Grio fam, if passed, do you think this will make a difference in how others police Black hair?