PHILADELPHIA, PA, March 12, 2020 – Councilwoman Cherelle Parker (9th District) today introduced a bill that would ban discrimination on the basis of hairstyle. The legislation was drafted in partnership with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.
The legislation would amend Chapter 9-1100 of The Philadelphia Code, entitled “Fair Practices Ordinance: Protections Against Unlawful Discrimination,” to clarify that unlawful discrimination on the basis of race includes discrimination based on characteristics commonly associated with race, such as hair texture and hairstyles. The legislation would ban hair discrimination in housing, employment, school, competitive sports, and beyond. Philadelphia would become the first city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to adopt such a law and join a growing list of jurisdictions that have outlawed hair discrimination, including New York City and Montgomery County, Maryland.
“Hair discrimination is a reality for too many black women and men. As a black woman, I personally understand how we have been forced to conform to mainstream standards of beauty for decades,” Parker said. “I am so proud to witness more and more women embrace their natural beauty and reject the need to fit into this makeshift frame that once defined what was beautiful and acceptable. It’s about more than just hair; it’s about our culture. It’s accepting who we are and loving who we are, and no one should face discrimination because they are comfortable in their own skin and choose to identify with their culture.”
“For too long, grooming and appearance policies have been written and enforced by white cultural standards that often perpetuate racist stereotypes,” said Rue Landau, Executive Director, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. “The City of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations want to make it clear that policies restricting or punishing people based on personal and cultural characteristics—such as hair styles or hair texture—are racist, discriminatory and illegal in our city, plain and simple.”
Earlier this year, a black student in Pittsburgh was told that he would be suspended from school or even kept from graduating if he did not cut his dreadlocks, WXPI News reported. In October 2019, a Pennsylvania State University football player received a letter from an alumnus of the university stating that his “dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive,” USA Today reported.
Several instances of natural hair discrimination across the country spurred support for the “Create A Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” or CROWN Act, led by international strategist and adjunct professor, Adjoa B. Asamoah. Several federal lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D-PA) and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), introduced CROWN Act legislation in Congress in December 2019. Currently, versions of the CROWN Act have been adopted in five states, including New York and New Jersey.
Here is what people are saying about the legislation:
U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, D-PA: “I’m an original co-sponsor of the CROWN Act at the federal level because we need to stamp out hairstyle discrimination, which is often a back-door way to allow racial or national-origin discrimination. I commend Councilwoman Parker for pushing to make this change at the local level.”
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ: “Discrimination against black hair is discrimination against black people. Implicit and explicit biases against natural hair are harmful and must be rooted out. That’s why I led the effort in the U.S. Senate to ban discrimination based on hair textures and hairstyles that are commonly associated with a particular race or national origin. This is a violation of our civil rights, and it happens every day for black people across the country.”
Andrea Custis, President and CEO, Urban League of Philadelphia: “Discrimination on the basis of hairstyle has been used as a way to exclude black people from the workplace and deprive them of other rights and privileges for far too long. The Urban League of Philadelphia and the National Urban League are proud to be part of the CROWN Coalition, which has led the charge to adopt the CROWN Act. We greatly appreciate the work of Councilwoman Cherelle Parker and other lawmakers who are working to stamp out hair bias so that people of color who choose to wear their natural hair can do so without fear of discrimination.”
Brandi Collins-Dexter, senior campaign director, Color Of Change: “When Black people are told that our bodies, including our natural hair, is unacceptable, our society suffers alongside the people directly experiencing this form of discrimination. In contrast, when Black people are protected and allowed to work, learn and live free of hostile hair discrimination, our entire society benefits from the products of a more inclusive and equitable system. We thank Councilwoman Cherelle Parker for her leadership, along with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and the Law Department, in ensuring protection for her Black constituents. Color Of Change and its 1.7 million members will continue to advocate in city halls and state capitols across the country for a ban on hairstyle discrimination until these protections are the national standard.”
Joann Bell, co-convener, Black Women’s Leadership Council: “African American women have long struggled with the restrictions placed upon us to meet the European standard of beauty. We have sacrificed the beauty of our natural hair in order to conform to arbitrary workplace rules. Further, without the protections of the CROWN Act and the legislation introduced by Councilwoman Parker, we risk losing the income and benefits needed to survive. This legislation frees all people who simply want to be themselves.”
Muhga Eltigani, Founder and CEO, NaturAll Club: “Hair discrimination is an issue that has long plagued our community. In 2020, it is unfathomable that we are still fighting to depoliticize our natural form. At NaturAll Club, we believe that people are appropriate and valid as they are. We should not have to change our natural form to fit a societal norm, earn a living, or remain an upstanding citizen. As a black woman-owned startup founded and based in Philadelphia, a historically black populous city, we feel that it is our responsibility to go above and beyond for those we serve. We are not only a natural hair company. We are servants of our community. We create products with integrity while fostering and uplifting our community to empower them to be the best versions of themselves. We at NaturAll Club are honored to stand in full support of Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, the CROWN Act, and new legislation that will finally make it illegal to discriminate against anyone because of their hair.”
Councilwoman Cherelle L. Parker represents the 9th District, which includes East Mt. Airy, West Oak Lane, East Oak Lane, Lawncrest, Burholme, Olney, Oxford Circle and Logan. As Majority Leader, she serves as Chair of Council’s Committee on Labor and Civil Service and the Committee on Law and Government.