It’s always great when art can imitate life, but even better when life can take its cues from art.
Whether it’s a coincidence or not, since Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver’s Hair Love won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short, three more states have either passed their own versions of a CROWN Act in the legislature or introduced a bill. (Currently, only California, New York, and New Jersey have passed laws banning employers and schools from discriminating against hairstyles and textures including afros, braids, locks and twists.)
First up last week was Colorado, whose state House passed the CROWN Act on Feb. 12, which made its way to the state Senate introduced the bill the next day.
“Expressing your identity and culture through hairstyle is empowering, and Coloradans should never have to fear reprisal in the workplace for doing so,” Rep. Leslie Herod (D-Denver) before the bill was voted on and passed.
Then on Thursday (Feb 13), the Washington state House passed a similar bill, like Colorado moving to the state Senate awaiting a vote. Then, on Feb. 10, the day after the Oscars, Minnesota introduced similar legislation, KARE 11 reported.
“The bill here is modeled after New York that passed and became law. It extends the definition of race to include hairstyles and hair textures, including braids locks and twists,” Rep. Rena Moran on the Gopher State’s proposed bill.
“It will become a human right. Any violation will be a violation against human rights.”
Perhaps these states heard Cherry and Toliver’s call to action during their speech that stressed the importance of representation, the normalization of Black hair and the need to pass a federal CROWN Act.
“We have so many people that worked hard on this, it was a labor of love. We have a firm belief that representation matters deeply, especially in cartoons because in cartoons and movies it’s how we shape our lives and how we see the world,” Rupert Toliver said on the Oscars podium.
While Cherry used his brief time to raise awareness around the need to pass a federal CROWN Act that would make it illegal for people to be fired or suspended from school because of how they choose to wear their natural hair.
“Hair Love was done so to see more representation in animation. We wanted to normalize Black hair. There’s a very important issue out there, it’s called the CROWN Act and we can help get this passed in all 50 states and help stories like Deandre Arnold, who’s our special guest tonight, to stop that [from happening,” Cherry said.
Deandre Arnold, the teen mentioned in Cherry’s speech, was invited to attend the Oscars by the Hair Love team, including Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade after news hit that the 17-year-old was suspended from Texas’ Barber Hill High School because of his dreads. Even his graduation status is being threatened because of the dress code policy his school has in place.
This is so inspiring, but here’s what’s even better: These three states are not alone.
According to CNN, “at least 22 states are considering the legislation, and local jurisdictions like Cincinnati, Ohio, and Montgomery County, Maryland, have passed it too.” We just need for these state bills to passed in their senates and sent over to their prospective governors to sign into law. In the meantime, a federal CROWN Act has been introduced but has yet to be voted on in the House.
In the end, our hair shouldn’t be looked at as a distraction and it has nothing to do with learning in classrooms or productivity or appearances at the workplace. Most importantly, how we choose to wear our hair shouldn’t be used against Black folks to stop us from succeeding or living out our dreams.