Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles) seeks to end discrimination against hairstyles

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Asm. Kamlager-Dove

(SACRAMENTO) – Racial, ethnic and cultural prejudice includes discrimination against hairstyles, an injustice that motivated Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles) to guide SB 188, “the CROWN Act,” to successful bipartisan approval on the Assembly floor Thursday morning.

“Wearing my hair in braids, while standing on the Assembly floor talking about the unique traits of black hair, is empowering.” said Assemblymember Kamlager-Dove.

The bill, introduced by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), prohibits hair-based discrimination by amending the Fair Housing and Employment Code to include in the protected class of race, “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”

“Throughout my professional life I have straightened, relaxed and blown dry my hair to conform to Eurocentric standards. I did it to make others feel comfortable, and to avoid comments and even harassment,” said Kamlager-Dove. “Last year, when I wore braids on the last day of the legislative session, women thanked me afterwards. They said that I liberated them to wear braids in their own hair, something they didn’t think they should do in a setting like the legislature. My response is that there is beauty and professionalism in black hair."

Research conducted by the Perception Institute in 2016 revealed that “the majority of participants, regardless of race, show implicit bias against black women’s textured hair.” A 2019 national study by Dove, the personal care brand, divulged that Black women are 80 percent more likely to change their natural hair to meet social norms or expectations at work.

Racial bias is a persistent form of prejudice that can be explicit and implicit, individual and systemic. Communities that face bigotry and injustice need equitable policies that curtail discrimination.

California’s girls and women of color make up more than 62 percent of the state’s female population. SB 188 will protect Black girls and women who choose to wear hairstyles consistent with their natural hair texture. SB 188 also will prevent students from being forced to choose between keeping their dreadlocks and competing in a high school wrestling match, as happened to a young man last December at a New Jersey high school. 

The CROWN Act will set a California standard for defining discrimination in employment on the basis of race in instances where federal anti-discrimination law doesn’t apply. In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld an 11th circuit appellate court ruling stating that hairstyles should not be considered in discrimination claims.

SB 188 is a step towards ensuring that no one has to abandon healthy, natural hair to placate unhealthy and unnatural biases. The bill has drawn national attention, with New York and New Jersey recently introducing similar bills. Assemblymember Kamlager-Dove is proud to co-author the legislation and encourages a swift signature by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Assembly District 54 consists of Baldwin Hills, Cheviot Hills, the Crenshaw District, Century City, Culver City, Ladera Heights, Mar Vista, Palms, Rancho Park, Westwood and parts of South Los Angeles and Inglewood.