Jul 252019
The CROWN Act and Freedom to Be Me

The state of California has passed a law to make it illegal to discriminate against a person based on his or her hairstyle. The CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) finally makes it legal for black people to wear their hair the way it grows out of their heads. New York just passed similar legislation and New Jersey is considering it. I’m trying to just be happy and ignore the fact that in 2019 such a law is still necessary.

As a black girl in the 1980s and 1990s, the drive for straight hair battered me. Relaxers routinely burned my scalp as I tried to fight back tears and the desire to scream, TAKE IT OFF! But, the longer you can bear the burning, the straighter your hair will be. Days before getting a relaxer I stopped scratching, combing or brushing my hair so that I wouldn’t irritate my scalp. For all of my trouble, I was still left with scabs in my scalp, stubbornly short and decidedly not-silky hair. After high school I sought refuge in braided styles and I couldn’t wait to graduate from college and get my hair loc’ed. It always wanted to be in dreadlocks anyway. Couldn’t I just wear my hair the way it came out of my head and have that be enough?

My father was skeptical. He had been in the corporate world all his life and he worried that I couldn’t get a job with locs. I still had enough youthful haughtiness to believe that my resume was impressive enough to allow nappy hair to assimilate. Luckily, I was spit out of undergrad during the dot.com boom which welcomed all ambitious self-defined hotshots, regardless of how we looked.

I’ve never had trouble getting a job – that I know of. Congratulations to the people of California and New York who have won the right to be….natural.

Here are a few great coloring books, Color My Fro and Naturally Cute that celebrate black girls’ hair in all its textures, styles and glory. My eldest daughter had a field day coloring in the girls who looked like her, a welcome change from Disney princesses (even Tiana sports a straight hairstyle).

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