DENVER — A nationwide issue has made its way into the Colorado legislature: discrimination over natural hair based on race or ethnicity. Commonly called the CROWN Act, it would ban any discrimination for racial or ethnic hairstyles in schools, while searching for jobs, and even in housing.
On Friday, the Senate passed House Bill 20-1048. The measure will now head to Governor Polis for his signature in order to become state law.
News5 met with one of the sponsors of the bill, Representative Leslie Herod, while she was at a hair appointment in Denver. "Our hair grows out of our head curly, naturally... What we have been told is that our natural hairstyles are unkempt, are not professional, and that we need to change our appearance," Herod said.
That's why she's hopeful the "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2020" will become law. She said it would take any bias based on hair out of the hiring process, as well as giving people a way to protect themselves against that type of discrimination.
"It will tell schools to change their policies, to ensure that they're not racially motivated, whether consciously or unconsciously," Herod said.
The woman Representative Herod sees for her hair is Keva Morris, who has been doing hair for dozens of years. "That wasn't even a conversation once upon a time, it was either you're relaxing or you're braiding, but never anything that just what was your hair is," Morris said.
Morris and Herod also discussed the links between relaxers and potential health problems. Morris said lots of women will eventually want to switch from using things like relaxers, and wear their natural hair. "Cut it off and find out that they have this glorious mane of curl, that they never knew they had because they've been relaxing, some since 5," she said.
Morris said she is disappointed a law even has to be formed to protect against this discrimination, but is still happy to see something being done about it. "You can be just as beautiful, and just as polished, and just as professional as anyone else, in your own natural hair," Morris said.
If this becomes law, Colorado will be one of the first five states to do so. The penalties would be the same as any type of race-based discrimination.