Florida lawmaker will try again to ban hair discrimination

Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell says the mission will continue despite the fourth failed attempt this session to make the practice illegal.

A Florida lawmaker is not giving up on his commitment to change how people look at hair.

According to Florida Politics, Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell says the mission will continue despite the fourth failed attempt this session to include people with locs, cornrows, and Afros on the list of those protected from discrimination.

“If you don’t know a person, the first thing you see is their hair,” Powell said. “It shouldn’t prevent you from developing a relationship.”

Powell introduced SB 590 in the state Senate to outlaw hairstyle discrimination in the public education system. The measure declares that hair discrimination would be on the same level as bias based on race, national origin, sex, disability, religion, or marital status.

Powell took over the reins for Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy, who introduced the bill in 2020. In the state House, Fentrice Driskell, the leader of the chamber’s Democrats, introduced a similar bill, HB 51. In 2019, Democratic Rep. Kamia Brown filed it.

Senator Bobby Powell Florida -- outlaw hair discrimination CROWN Act
Florida Democratic Sen. Bobby Powell says he is committed to changing the way people view hair and will continue to push for legislation to outlaw hair discrimination. (Photo Credit: Screenshot/YouTube.com/Florida League of Cities)

Neither proposed bill received a committee hearing during the 2023 session, but Powell asserts that the mission will continue.

“We are committed to this legislation,” Powell said, Florida Politics reported. “It’s bound to change the way people look at hair.”

The “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” or CROWN Act — which aims to eliminate evidence-based bias against people who choose “Afrocentric hairstyle” options, particularly women — is part of a nationwide campaign approved in almost two dozen states and the U.S. House.

The U.S. Senate halted the proposal after the House passed it in 2022. If the Senate ever approves the bill, the Fair Housing Act and Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be among federal legislation prohibiting hair discrimination based on natural texture.

According to its website, the CROWN Coalition is an association of groups established nationally in 2019. The group’s members are the anti-poverty Western Center on Law and Poverty, the National Urban League, Color of Change and the Dove soap company.

Dove’s research notes that Black women are 80% more likely than other women to alter their natural hair to conform to social standards or workplace requirements. The study also discovered that Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace.

Nineteen states have adopted the CROWN Act. “This is something that could have a long-lasting legacy,” Powell said, Florida Politics reported.

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