TN senators pass bill that protects against natural hair discrimination

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In Tennessee, the state Senate passed the Crown Act designed to protect people who wear their hair naturally in braids, locks, and twists.

The owner of a Natural Affair said she hears stories all the time from women and men who are scared to wear their hair naturally.

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She said the Crown Act is a step in the right direction but she’s upset because something so basic needs a bill and to be put in writing.

“It’s okay to be who you are, for you to wear natural hair, that doesn’t mean you are any less than or capable because you choose to wear natural hair,” said salon owner Takisha Berry-Brooks.

Berry-Brooks encourages her clients to embrace their natural hair.

She said she hears stories from clients who are worried about getting discriminated against based on how they wear their hair.

“They would get their hair done but go wear a wig during the interview because they are afraid that if they wear their natural hair it will be too disruptive,” said Berry-Brooks.

She said kids experience this too. When her daughter was only 7-years-old, she was told to change her hair.

“The lady told her if she planned on being in a dance recital she’d have to change her hair and take her hair down,” said Berry-Brooks.

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On Monday night, the Crown Act passed the Senate with a 28 to 0 vote.

It protects people from being discriminated against based on how they wear their hair naturally.

Representative Antonio Parkinson said he originally introduced the bill three years ago but it was set aside because of the pandemic.

He said he is happy it’s getting talked about again especially since he experienced discrimination at his former job.

“I was written up with threatening language up to termination and they told me I had to cut my hair or possibly lose my job,” said Parkinson.

Both Parkinson and Berry-Brooks said the Crown Act will make a positive impact, helping Black people feel free to express themselves, especially at work.

“We are here to transform lives and here to help people mentally get back to who they really are,” said Berry-Brooks.

Under the law, an employee could file a complaint with the EEOC if they feel like they are being discriminated against but there are no written penalties in the law.

The bill will be heard in the House in 2022.