Illinois becomes the latest state to enact the CROWN Act, banning hair discrimination

Story at a glance

  • On Friday, Illinois became the 17th state to pass the CROWN Act.

  • It prohibits discrimination based on a person’s hair texture or style—like braids, locs, twists or bantu knots.

  • Congress has tried to pass the CROWN Act but wasn’t able to garner enough votes.

Illinois became the latest state to ban discrimination based on a person’s hair texture or style, expanding the state’s definition of race and joining 16 other U.S. states that have also passed the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” — known as the CROWN Act.

The CROWN Act was first introduced in Congress last year but was unable to secure the necessary supermajority for passage—and remains to be taken up by the Senate.

In the meantime, dozens of states passed their own CROWN Acts to formally ban hair discrimination—including Illinois. Upon signing the bill into law on Friday, Gov. JB Pritzker (D) said on Twitter, “Hair isn’t just deeply personal—it’s inherently cultural, passing down thousands of years of history from generation to generation. Hair discrimination isn’t just a microaggression—it’s racist. And it’s past time we prohibit it.”

Illinois became the 17th state to enact the Crown Act, shortly after Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (R) also passed the CROWN Act in his state and in Alaska the bill awaits Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s (R) signature.

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The law prohibits race-based hair discrimination, like the denial of employment and education opportunities because of a person’s hair texture or style—which commonly comes in braids, locs, twists or bantu knots.

Hair discrimination has cropped up across the country, including in Massachusetts when two 15-year-old sisters were suspended from school over their braid extensions.

A similar situation occurred in Alabama when an insurance company refused to hire a Black woman because of her dreadlocks, which the company said was in violation of its grooming policies. The company said she would need to cut her dreadlocks as a condition of her employment.

Beauty brand Dove conducted a study in 2019 which found Black women’s hair is more policed in the workplace than non-Black women. About 80 percent of women surveyed agreed with the statement that they had to change their hair from its natural state to fit in at the office.

Dove also found that Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from their workplace because of their hair and 83 percent more likely to report being judged harshly on her looks than other women.

Though the future of the CROWN Act remains uncertain in Congress, President Biden said in March that, “no person should be denied the ability to obtain a job, succeed in school or the workplace, secure housing or otherwise exercise their rights based on a hair texture or hair style.

Biden indicated that he would work with Congress to pass the CROWN Act and sign the bill into law.

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