The Tennessee Senate passed a bill determining that discrimination shouldn’t occur based on certain hairstyles. The “CROWN Act: Creating Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” would place “protective hairstyle,” a reference to styling of Afro-textured hair, within the Human Rights chapter of the Tennessee Code. Ultimately, the bill would prevent discrimination based on hairstyles such as braids, dreadlocks, cornrows, or Afros. Enactment of this legislation likely won’t come soon, however: the Tennessee House deferred action on this bill until 2022.
State Senator Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) first introduced the CROWN Act, but the idea didn’t originate with her. A coalition dedicated to ending “hair discrimination” is advancing this type of legislation throughout the country. The coalition consists of Dove, the personal care brand, and several social justice organizations: National Urban League, Color of Change, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty. However, the Tennessee Senate version differs slightly from the model legislation. Tennessee senators struck a provision including race as a factor for determining discrimination.
Originally, the Tennessee CROWN Act read:
“‘Protective hairstyle’ includes, but is not limited to, braids, locks and twists; ‘Race’ includes ancestry, ethnic group identification, ethnic background, and the physical or cultural characteristics associated with a certain race, including, but not limited to, hair texture or protective hairstyles[,]”stated the initial version.
The amended version also created an exclusion for any public safety employees in which certain hairstyles might inhibit their job requirements.
During the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee hearing last month, Akbari clarified that this bill wouldn’t create a protected class.
Akbari attempted to pass the CROWN Act last year as well.
Other states have enacted similar legislation under the same name. So far, 9 states have enacted the CROWN Act: California, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Colorado, Connecticut, Virginia, Delaware, Maryland.
Congress is considering the CROWN Act as well, introduced in March by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).
The Senate voted unanimously for the bill on Monday.
– – –