The law would protect hairstyles based on race


Christina Jackson, 13, hailed Tuesday as a “young black queen,” does not want to bow to the racist attitude of a future employer towards wearing her hair in braids or rows of corn.

And under a bill that is dead During last year’s pandemic that is now rekindled in the General Assembly, she and black women, as well as men across the state of Connecticut, could proudly wear ethnic hairstyles historically associated with race.

Jackson could wear his hair freely in gymnastics competitions, while men and women would have legal recourse under state protections against discrimination in housing, education and employment.

The law “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” (CROWN) is part of a nationwide effort to protect most black residents. If passed, Connecticut would join other states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Colorado, and Washington, with the anti-bias law.

In a virtual morning press conference Tuesday ahead of a public hearing at the Labor and Public Employees Committee, Jackson, now a college student in Windsor, said hair discrimination became a barrier for her as she began her career. life.

“When I was about eight years old I was on a competitive gymnastics team and as you might have guessed the majority of the girls on my team were white, with straight, thin hair,” a- she declared. “I always wore my hair in box braids, a very versatile hairstyle, and I braided my braids in two corn rows. My trainers kept telling me that my braids were too loose, when in reality they never restricted my movements during class. It was unfair to me because my white peers wore their hair in loose ponytails which they constantly had to mend and redo as they pleased.

She also felt a pressure to straighten her hair which she could put into a bun like other girls.

“I wanted my hair to be like theirs so badly, I wanted straight hair so I could be like my teammates,” Jackson recalls. “This process ruined my hair and hurt my self-esteem.”

“Our hair is a natural extension of ourselves,” said Adrienne W. Cochrane, CEO of the Hartford Region YWCA, where Christina is a Youth Ambassador. “It’s not just about hair. It’s a question of choice. It’s a matter of respect and it’s a matter of being able to rock your crown the way you want.

State Representative Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, co-chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, said that too often people’s hairstyles overshadow their performance at work in workplaces where employers might be. evidence of discrimination.

“Many of us are judged, berated, ignored for promotion or even fired for the way we wear our hair at work,” she said. “Women have always had to deal with societal pressures to look a certain way. All women, right? But if you are a black woman in America, the stakes of that pressure are so much higher, and compliance is often a means of survival.

Porter and other supporters of the bill hailed the teenager as a “young black queen” who proudly represents her generation in the YWCA’s Young Women’s Leadership Corps.

The bill, which is expected to be passed by the committee and run alongside the House of Representatives, would amend state discrimination laws to include hairstyles in housing, public housing such as schools, employment and credit transactions.

“What has been so clear to me over the past four years, but particularly over the past year, is the importance of addressing equity in all areas,” said Senator Julie Kushner , D-Danbury, the other co-chair of the committee, recalling that it would have passed last year but that the pandemic has closed the General Assembly. “We can’t say we’re trying to tackle systemic racism if we don’t address these fairness issues on all platforms, on all fronts. “

Kushner said if it was approved in the House and Senate and promulgated by the governor, it would be appropriate to complain to the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and to take legal action in court. superior.

“We don’t want any uncertainty as to whether or not natural hairstyles are protected under current law,” Kushner said. “That will. I think we need to strengthen the law, but also provide people with a means to uphold the law and remedy their work situation.”

[email protected] Twitter: @KenDixonCT


David R. Brewer

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