Tennessee lawmakers support bill to end race-based hair discrimination

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Posted at 4:09 AM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-07 10:03:09-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee state lawmakers will take up a bill Monday to end race-based hair discrimination.

Supporters of the CROWN Act said society’s bias has resulted in the unfair judgment against Black women based on hair texture and protective styles.

The state Senate managed to pass it last year, now they await action in the House.

"I grew up in a diverse community," Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville, said. "I understood at an early age that hair means different things to different folks with regards to its importance to them. Not only in their raising but in their culture and other things. When this bill came through, I tended to be sympathetic to it."

Last year, lawmakers placed the bill on the back burner in the House because of their concerns about creating another protected class.

The amendment was filed last month to create rules to provide protection for hairstyles but not go "all the way" to creating a protected class, which means the Department of Labor and Workforce Development would create rules and a disciplined structure if someone wants to file a discrimination complaint.

Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis, said this bill amends the definition of race to include traits like hair texture and protective hairstyles like locks, braids and twists.

She said she already has a lot of support and several lawmakers agree that nobody should be told how to wear their hair when it’s associated with their culture. She added people shouldn't be fired because of it or lose promotions because of their natural hair.

At least 14 states already have a CROWN Act law in effect right now.