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Black Leadership Advisory Council highlights legislative progress on CROWN Act in Detroit Free Press article, virtual town hall
February 24, 2023
Legislation aims to protect Michiganders from hair-based discrimination
LANSING, Mich. -- The Black Leadership Advisory Council (BLAC) joined Sen. Sarah Anthony to highlight the importance of the newly introduced CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair) Act, aimed at eliminating hair discrimination and removing barriers to Black Michiganders achieving economic prosperity.
The legislation would extend state law to protect Michiganders from hair-based discrimination by specifying hair texture and protective hairstyles, such as braids, locs and twists, as traits historically associated with race.
“Since I first introduced the CROWN Act in 2019, we've heard countless heartbreaking stories from individuals who have faced hair discrimination across Michigan,” Sen. Anthony said. “It’s simple: How you choose to wear your hair shouldn’t hinder your success in school or the workplace. It’s time to pass the CROWN Act now.”
Following Sen. Anthony’s introduction of Senate Bill 90, she joined BLAC to host a virtual town hall on the importance of the CROWN Act, a key policy recommendation from BLAC. Speakers included Sen. Sarah Anthony; Donna Bell, BLAC Co-Chair; Tiffany Torain, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Relationship Manager with Dow Chemical; and Lottie Ferguson, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Flint. Watch the Feb. 21 town hall here.
The CROWN Act was one of 11 policy recommendations BLAC offered to Gov. Whitmer in their 2022 report based on subject matter expert presentations and other forms of research and analysis. BLAC Co-Chair Donna Bell expands on the town hall discussion in the following opinion piece published in the Detroit Free Press.
Michigan Needs the CROWN Act to Tackle Discrimination
Hair discrimination is a form of racial oppression that has long plagued Black Americans looking to make their mark in professional spaces and it’s time we shine a light and bring about tangible change to stifle this prejudice here in Michigan.
As co-chair of Gov. Whitmer’s Black Leadership Advisory Council, I see first-hand the critical issues Black Michiganders face. From bias in job recruitment, to Black children being restricted because of natural hairstyles likes braids worn in school, our community is subjected to race-based discrimination and scrutiny daily.
In 2020, researchers at Michigan State University conducted four studies that found that Black women with natural hairstyles were perceived as less professional and competent during job recruitment and were less likely to be recommended for a job interview, thus demonstrating how biases lead to workplace standards that specifically exclude Black women with natural hair. In addition, some schools’ dress codes even explicitly prohibit hairstyles that feature one’s natural hair texture or are expressions of cultural pride, preventing them from being their most authentic selves.
To combat this ongoing issue of prejudice, Sen. Sarah Anthony recently reintroduced legislation – known as the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair) Act – that would protect Black Michiganders from hair-based discrimination by expanding state law to recognize a person’s hair as a characteristic of race.
The CROWN Act specifies hair texture and protective hairstyles such as braids, locs and twists -- which safeguard natural hair from damage and don't require daily maintenance -- as traits historically associated with race to protect Michiganders from discrimination in the workplace, all levels of public education, public accommodations and services and real estate transactions. Sen. Sarah Anthony has delivered on her commitment to reintroducing this legislation this year with Senate Bill 90, echoing successful efforts in several other states to ban discrimination against natural hairstyles.
Sen. Anthony introduced a similar bill during her last term in the Michigan State House of Representatives in 2019 and again in 2021, to no resolve. To date, 20 states have adopted legislation that makes hair discrimination illegal, and it is time for Michigan to join this national movement.
The Black Leadership Advisory Council included the CROWN Act as a key priority in our 2022 report to Gov. Whitmer, which also outlined 10 other policy recommendations to remove barriers in the Black community in areas of education, community safety, health and business leadership.
Black History Month is a great opportunity for state leaders to take action to show Black Michiganders and the world that we deserve economic prosperity and equal opportunities with all that we bring to the table. The Black Leadership Advisory Council urges the Michigan Legislature to pass, and Gov. Whitmer to sign, the Michigan CROWN Act to outlaw hair discrimination in our state.
To learn more about how Michigan will benefit from passing the CROWN Act, watch our recent virtual town hall where Sen. Sarah Anthony joined the Black Leadership Advisory Council for a discussion on the politics of Black hair.
Donna Bell, Ph.D., is the co-chair of the Black Leadership Advisory Council.
ABOUT THE BLACK LEADERSHIP ADVISORY COUNCIL
Convened by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in late 2020, the mission of the Black Leadership Advisory Council (BLAC) is to identify barriers in the Black community in education, community safety, health and business leadership. Based on subject expert presentations and other forms of research and analysis, BLAC has offered 11 policy recommendations, including the CROWN Act, to Gov. Whitmer.
BLAC is housed in the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. Members represent many professional backgrounds, including economics, law, public safety, health and wellness, arts and culture and media. They leverage their experiences and expertise to make recommendations to the governor on critical issues affecting the Black community.