Support Local News.

We've been with you throughout the pandemic, and now as vaccines become more widely available, we are reporting on how our local schools, businesses and communities are returning to a more "normal" future. There's never been more of a need for the kind of local, independent and unbiased journalism that The Day produces.
Please support our work by subscribing today.

Connecticut Senate votes to ban hair discrimination

HARTFORD — Prompted by testimony about discrimination, the Connecticut state Senate granted final legislative approval Monday night for a bill that prohibits discrimination based on hairstyles historically associated with race.

In response to concerns raised by Black women, Connecticut is headed toward becoming the eighth state to adopt a new law on the issue. The bipartisan measure passed by 33-0 with two Republicans absent.

The state House of Representatives voted 139-9 last week for the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The bill now goes to Gov. Ned Lamont, who supports the measure.

“Discrimination occurs in many forms, in many ways,’' said Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney, a New Haven Democrat. “Some of the workplace discrimination on hairstyles is sometimes subtle and not-so-subtle. ... This will call that out, making it illegal.’'

Sen. Julie Kushner, a Danbury Democrat who co-chairs the Legislature’s labor committee, said the measure was the first bill of the 2021 session that “will be intentionally devoted to fighting racism.’'

She added, “I think we as a state will be better when this is signed into law.’'

State Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk echoed Kushner’s words, saying he will be pushing for other bills in the coming weeks and months that combat racism.

State Sen. Gary Winfield, a New Haven Democrat, spoke about his experiences as a youth and on the day when his son was born.

“They handed my son to me, and I froze,’' Winfield said on the Senate floor. “I froze because I was thinking of the world I had just brought children into. ... I remember what it was to be a young Black person. ... When I was a child, I remember the smell of my sister’s hair being burned. I think of my daughter, and what do I tell her about what is acceptable? ... My daughter needs to be who she naturally is.’'

Sen. Marilyn Moore, a Bridgeport Democrat, told personal stories that have stretched throughout her long life.

“For me, it’s sad to be here at 72 years old,’' said Moore, adding that there would be no need for a law on the issue if there was no discrimination.

As a child, Moore remembered that “the hairdresser wanted to straighten my hair, and my mother said she would not allow anybody to straighten my hair.’'

Many decades later, when Moore came to the Legislature, she said she was asked by a Black woman if she was going to change her hair. Moore said she didn’t originally understand the question and wondered if the reference was to her graying hair.

“She felt I needed to assimilate — especially when you’re the only Black woman in the Senate,’' Moore said. “Hair is never just hair. It’s culture. It’s pride. ... I own it. I’m proud of it. ... For Black women, it really is about culture and identity.’'

The issue has gained momentum in legislatures around the country, becoming law in California, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Washington and Colorado and being debated in 19 other states nationwide.

The Connecticut bill lists hairstyles that include afros, cornrows, dreadlocks, Bantu knots, braids, and twists.

The measure passed at the committee level last year, but then the 2020 legislative session was short-circuited in mid-March by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the CROWN Act, like most other legislation, was shelved. Lawmakers pledged to come back again this year, leading to Monday’s debate in the Senate.

Black women are 80% more likely to alter their natural hair to accommodate social norms or work expectations, according to a study completed by Dove, the cosmetic manufacturer that supports the hair movement. The study showed that Black women are also 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work due to their hairstyles.

Several legislators said that the issue was simply not on the radar screen of some lawmakers who never pondered it in the past.

“I know that there are legislators who never thought about hair,’' Moore said, “but hopefully you’ll think about it now.’'

 

READER COMMENTS

Loading comments...
Hide Comments

TRENDING

PODCASTS