Murphy signs legislation clarifying that discrimination based on hairstyles associated with race is illegal

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Urban News Staff Reports

Gov. Phil Murphy signs S3945, also known as the "Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act" (CROWN Act), which clarifies that prohibited race discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.”

The law was introduced after Andrew Johnson, an African-American high school wrestler at Buena Regional High School, was forced to cut off his dreadlocks in order to compete in a match in December 2018.

"Race-based discrimination will not be tolerated in the State of New Jersey.” said Murphy. “No one should be made to feel uncomfortable or be discriminated against because of their natural hair. I am proud to sign this law in order to help ensure that all New Jersey residents can go to work, school, or participate in athletic events with dignity."

The CROWN Act updates the "Law Against Discrimination" to clarify that prohibited race discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles.” As defined in the bill, the term “protective hairstyles” includes, but is not limited to, “such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.” This change is intended to remove any confusion or ambiguity over the scope of the Law Against Discrimination and its applicability to race discrimination predicated on such traits.

Primary sponsors of the bill include Senators Sandra B. Cunningham, Nia H. Gill, and Shirley K. Turner and Assemblymembers Angela McKnight, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, Shanique Speight, and Britnee Timberlake.

New Jersey is the third state in the nation to pass such legislation behind California and New York.

“I am proud to see New Jersey become just the third state in the nation to put an end to this discriminatory practice. This law will ensure people of color are free to wear their hair however they feel best represents them, whether that be locks, braids, twists or curls. No one should ever be told it is ‘unprofessional’ to embrace their culture,” said  Cunningham. “It is unacceptable that someone could be dismissed from school or denied employment because they wear their hair exactly how it grows, but that has been the reality for many black and brown individuals. Today, here in New Jersey, we've changed that.”

Turner added that the bill will have profound impact on Black children. She said in the last few years there have been several cases where children were sent home from school, or denied participation in extracurricular activities because of how they choose to wear their hair.

“Hair discrimination policies, rooted in Eurocentric beauty standards, have no place in our schools or our workplaces," Turner said. "It is time we get rid of them once and for all.”

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and Congressman Cedric Richmond introduced The CROWN Act of 2019 in both chambers of the U.S. Congress December 5, 2019.  Twelve additional states have pre-filed legislation for early 2020.

“I’m grateful to Governor Murphy for signing this important legislation and applaud Senator Sandra B. Cunningham and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, who led the CROWN Act and Crown Coalition advocate Adjoa B. Asamoah, who worked tirelessly to end the implicit and explicit biases against natural hair,” said  Booker. “Discrimination against black hair is discrimination against black people and no one should be denied a job, an education, or face discrimination because of their hairstyle.”

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