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Connecticut Looks To Pass 'Crown Act' To Prevent Discrimination Based On Hairstyles

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Connecticut lawmakers will consider legislation that would make it illegal to discriminate against hairstyles that are associated with African Americans. The hairstyles include braids, cornrows, dreadlocks, and twists.

State Representative Stephanie Thomas is a Black lawmaker from Norwalk. She crops her hair short.

“Today my haircut raises no eyebrows. But that was not the case in 1994 when I first cut it short,” Powers said.

Thomas said her manager at the area nonprofit she worked for at the time did not approve.

“And assumed that I wouldn’t fit in as a safe Black, as a palatable person of color in our core business of convincing wealthy whites to make donations to our nonprofit,” Thomas said.

Thomas said that’s why she and many of her fellow lawmakers support passage of the Crown Act. The bill being considered in the Labor and Public Employee Committee would make it illegal to discriminate against someone at work or school over the way they wear their hair.

It was introduced last year. It made it out of committee and then died because the session was shortened by the pandemic.

Tanya Hughes is head of the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. She said the legislation would get rid of outdated practices and policies.

“It provides protections for citizens to wear their hair in a way that is consistent with who they are. And no one should be treated differently because of their hair,” Hughes said.

Connecticut would be the eighth state to pass the Crown Act, if it makes it this year.

New York and New Jersey passed their versions in 2019.

The story has been corrrected to properly identify State Representative Stephanie Thomas.

Copyright 2021 WSHU

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year. In addition to providing long-form reports and features for WSHU, he regularly contributes spot news to NPR, and has worked at the NPR National News Desk as part of NPR’s diversity initiative.

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