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CROWN Act would ban hair discrimination in Tucson

Updated: Feb. 23, 2021 at 12:02 AM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -Celebrating natural hair is a growing movement. Though some may not realize it, hair discrimination is rooted in our nation’s culture. That’s why a new ordinance, set to be discussed at the next Tucson City Council meeting, aims to outlaw hair bias.

“[Hair discrimination] is something that has been around, it’s not new,” said Annie Sykes, the President of the Black Women’s Task Force - Tucson. “I think a lot of it is what I call ‘covert’. Most people may scrutinize you, but they scrutinize you mentally because it takes a really different kind of person to want to do that outwardly. You may not get a job or a promotion and you don’t know why. Your qualifications may have been stellar, but you are wearing an afro or you are wearing braids or dreadlocks. I almost have more respect for the ‘talking biased’ than the person who smiles at you but is going to be biased anyways.”

Dove recently did a survey. Of the black women who responded, 80% said they have felt pressure to change their hair for work.

Two years ago, a New Jersey high school wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocks before a match or forfeit, sparking outrage.

“That was demeaning, it was disgraceful and it was disgusting,” said Tucson City Council Member Steve Kozachik.

As soon as the Black Women’s Task Force brought the issue to Kozachik’s attention, he threw support behind the CROWN Act. It stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.”

So far, 7 states and 11 cities have implemented laws that protect natural hair from discrimination just as much as race, gender and religion are in the workplace and schools.

“It’s 2021,” said Kozachik. “It’s time we get a revelation that people should not be discriminated against based on natural hair. We have restrictions based on law that we can only make this a misdemeanor offense, but I would hope when businesses see what we are doing that peer pressure is what weighs on them.”

If passed, Sykes says the CROWN Act would set the tone for Tucson.

“We have a lot of transplants that come here from other places,” she said. “It sends the message that we do not stand for [prejudice]. Once it’s on the books, that even makes people more careful, you know? My hair does not reflect my mentality or my intelligence. We have a different hair texture and now we are loving our hair texture.”

Many have already sent letters of support. Mayor and Council will discuss the CROWN Act during Tuesday’s study session. Then, Kozachik will ask members of the board to direct the City Attorney to draft an ordinance. That ordinance will be voted on at a future meeting.

For the Black Women’s Task Force, this is just the beginning. The local chapter is working to bring the CROWN Act to Pima County and the Arizona legislature.

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