Michigan House passes bill banning hair discrimination; legislation heads to Whitmer’s desk ⋆

The Michigan House on Thursday voted in bipartisan fashion to approve legislation known as the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act. 

Passed by a vote of 100-7, Senate Bill 90 now goes to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her expected signature. Sponsored by Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), the legislation expands the state’s civil rights protections to include hair-based discrimination. That protection, Anthony said, is especially crucial for people of color who have long faced being fired and discrimination for wearing their natural hair.

“I am proud to announce that the CROWN Act has passed through both chambers of the Michigan Legislature with bipartisan support,” said Anthony. “When I first introduced this legislation in 2019, it was shelved, and I was told that we needed to prioritize ‘more important’ issues. I can think of nothing more important than prohibiting legalized racial discrimination in school and the workplace.”  

Whitmer has supported the legislation in the past. During the previous legislative session, Whitmer tweeted that Anthony’s “CROWN Act bill will go a long way toward addressing discrimination Black Michiganders face at work, at school, and elsewhere. We must create a state where all people can work, live, and raise a family just as they are.”

Earlier this year, Anthony was joined by other senators and representatives, including members of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus and impacted individuals, for a press conference to discuss the importance of this legislation. 

Cameo King spoke at the Feb. 21, 2023 press conference on the CROWN Act | courtesy photo

During that event, Cameo King, a Detroit native who has worked in Lansing media, said she was told her hair would be a barrier in her career.

“One day, after having several conversations with the news director about improving my skills, he very directly said, ‘You won’t get a job in TV with your hair like that,’” said King, who now runs Grit, Glam and Guts, a nonprofit that works to empower girls across Michigan. “He was pointing at my hair on the TV as we both viewed my simple reporter reel. There were no comments about improving my writing or my delivery, but rather about my hair.”

On Thursday, King said the House’s vote was an emotional one for her.

“Today I will walk a little taller knowing my story and the unknown stories were not in vain,” she said in a press release issued by Anthony’s office.

Similar experiences are shared through a website, micrownact.com, that Anthony launched to provide additional information and share stories of people who have been impacted by hair discrimination.

Last month,  Anthony; Adjoa B. Asamoah, who launched a national push for Crown Act legislation across the country; Steve Japinga from the Lansing Regional Chamber; and Gabrielle Dresner from ACLU Michigan spoke in support of the bill at a hearing of the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. More than 100 people and organizations also submitted cards of support on the bill in committee on May 4, and the legislation also had broad support in the House Criminal Justice Committee. 

The Senate in May voted 33-5 to pass the CROWN Act.

“For the Black diaspora here in America, the CROWN Act is necessary because, for us, the issues around what comes out of one’s follicles and what one does with them are not inseparable,” state Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) said in a May press release. “Hair-based discrimination is among the forms of structural racism that many Black people have faced.”

Anthony shared similar sentiments.

“Hair discrimination is a lived reality for many Michiganders of color, particularly in the Black community. It can affect our employment, education, and well-being,” she said.

Assistant Editor Anna Gustafson contributed to this story.

authored by Ken Coleman
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F06%2F09%2Fmichigan-house-passes-bill-banning-hair-discrimination-legislation-heads-to-whitmers-desk%2F

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