ATLANTA — A bill recently passed in California made it illegal for a company or person to discriminate against someone else because of their hairstyle.
Now, a Georgia lawmaker is trying to drum up support for a similar bill here. It is legislation she says is well overdue.
Hair is considered a woman's crowning glory, and that's why, for many Black women, we spend time and money every week, working to get it just right. If not blown dry, then a protective style. A freedom of choice that Georgia State Representative Kim Schofield says must be legislated here in Georgia.
"This is a really important issue that we need to explore when we talk about bias especially as it pertains to work, race and class," said Schofield.
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Schofield says not only has natural or ethnic hair been the basis of discrimination against Black people historically, she says she gets calls from constituents regularly, saying they are running into problems simply because of their natural hair. Some have lost jobs, and more.
"We know some students who had to cut locks in order to graduate," said Schofield. "There's been discrimination in housing."
At U Salon in Atlanta, owner Lesia M. Davis says some of her clients have confided in her ... they feel they have to straighten their hair rather than wear it in its natural state.
"They feel pressure to wear their hair more conservatively," said Davis, "because the more ethnic styles don't transcend in the boardroom."
Schofield says everyone should have the freedom to choose how they wear their hair, without it costing them a job, a house, or spot in an elite school. She says that's why she created house resolution 1590, which calls for the creation of a committee to study the need for hair legislation.
“This implicit bias has to stop and I think it’s time Georgia had a real conversation,” Davis said.
This is a conversation made more urgent by the pandemic, when salons closed, and women chose protective styles like braids or wigs.
"I think you should be able to go to work as your natural self and not be discriminated against," said client Deanna Brooks.
"If it takes a bill for people to represent themselves in a natural way," said Davis, "then, yes, a bill needs to be passed."
"We've got to have 21st century workplace policies that reflect the total person," said Schofield.
This is the second time Schofield has put forth this issue to her colleagues. The first time, she proposed CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) legislation, she says she didn't even get a hearing.
Now, she’s putting forth HR 1590, hoping just to get a study approved on the need for hair legislation in Georgia.
The CROWN legislation that passed in California has also passed in New York and New Jersey. And in December of 2019, Senator Cory Booker proposed a federal version of the legislation.
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