Monday, October 25, 2021

Ingham County bans hair discrimination, State Rep. Sarah Anthony discusses MI CROWN Act

April 7, 2021
Downtown East Lansing on Nov. 20, 2020.
Downtown East Lansing on Nov. 20, 2020. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Ingham County passed a resolution on March 23 becoming the first Michigan County to ban hair discrimination against public employees in the county. 

Michigan State University student Nia Skinner-Miller, says that she has been told her hair is unprofessional.

“There’s an image that has to be portrayed to be respected and be taken seriously,” Skinner-Miller said.

The Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act, or CROWN Act, is law in several states including California, Washington, New York, Virginia, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey and Connecticut. Various counties and cities across the country have also adopted the CROWN Act.

Sponsored by State Rep. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing, reintroduced the Michigan CROWN Act Feb. 19.

The bill would amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976, which prohibits discrimination against religion, race, sex and other characteristics, to include “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles ... like braids, locks, and twists” to the definition of race. Including hair as a feature of race in the act would stop employers from penalizing employees for the style of their hair. House Bill 4811

“I can tell you that hair discrimination is real,” Anthony said. “It impacts our ability as women ... to find employment and get promotions.”

The Crown Act of 2020 was introduced by Anthony for the first time in Michigan in 2019. There was no hearing for the bill and Anthony said it did not receive support or momentum. Anthony said she thinks a lack of education on hair discrimination is why the bill was not originally passed.

“I got laughed out of rooms,” Anthony said. “It wasn’t just Republicans, many people even on the Democratic side that have told me this was not a real issue, that there are other things that we should be focused on.”

According to the Crown Research study by Dove, an African American woman’s hair is 3.4 times more likely to be seen as unprofessional and makes them 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work.

“I’m happy that first, we’re getting comfortable with our natural hair but at the same time society and our own state is pushing ‘I don’t want you to hide yourself,’” Skinner-Miller said.

Anthony believes that the bill is currently receiving momentum due to last year’s racial injustices forcing us to have conversations about race and racism.

“We’re seeing conversations around race and social justice and inclusion become real for people ... Folks in the halls of power weren’t willing or ready to start having these kinds of conversations but perhaps now is the time that folks are interested in having conversations about inclusion” Anthony said.

The bill currently awaits the Judiciary Committee and has the support of 63 House Representatives.

She said this is an important issue to her because she is an African American woman, Michigander and has also had to navigate spaces in education and work.

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