Race-based hair discrimination could be banned federally, local lawmakers voted against it

SPOKANE, Wash. — Legislation to ban race-based hair discrimination is on its way to the U.S. Senate. Some say federal protection is needed in the workplace.

Kameishi Williams says people come see her at her salon trying to change their natural appearance.

“It’s just unkempt. It’s just hard. I can’t do anything with it,” Williams said.

These are the stories her clients often come in with. Williams tries to help her clients see their reflection in a new light, and now some lawmakers are seeing it too.

“I think it’s a big step but a small step at the same time,” she said.

That’s how she feels about the Crown Act which stands for “create a respectful and open workplace for natural hair.” The law bans race-based hair discrimination… natural texture and cultural styles like braids, afros and cornrows.

A 2020 study out of Duke University found that black women with natural hairstyles are less likely to get interviews than white women or black women with straightened hair.

“It stays with you forever,” Williams said. “The moment someone polices how you choose to look.”

This bill passed the U.S. House, but several local lawmakers voted against it. Both representatives from Idaho and Washington Republican Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

In a statement, her office said, “Cathy believes all forms of racial discrimination are wrong and have no place in America. This includes discrimination on the basis of any hairstyle commonly associated with a specific race, which is already illegal under the civil rights act of 1964. She believes anyone who violates it should be held accountable to the fullest extent.”

Some local lawmakers say the federal bill is redundant. Already 14 states, including Washington, have legislation banning hair-based discrimination. Some don’t feel current civil rights laws are cutting it.

“At the very least, as human beings, we deserve to feel good about ourselves in our natural state,” Williams concluded.

The U.S. Senate still has to vote on this piece of legislation before it officially becomes law nationwide.