New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy inked a new law in mid-December, clarifying that the state prohibits discrimination which results from characteristics associated with race, such as the texture or type of someone’s hair, including protective hairstyles.
The legislation was introduced after a referee forced an African American high school wrestler from Buena to lop off his dreadlocks in 2018, so he could participate in a match. The bill was signed into law exactly one year after the incident happened.
CROWN Act updates existing state statutes
The Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act updates previous laws prohibiting discrimination based on traits that are historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair textures and hairstyles.
New Jersey became the third state in the nation to address this type of discrimination, which targets specific individuals over features that are intertwined or closely connected to race. Under the law, employers, housing providers and places open to the public, such as schools, cannot discriminate based on hairstyles.
Physical and cultural traits often result in racial targeting
The Buena high school wrestler, Andrew Johnson, would have been protected under the new law. The referee, in that instance, gave him a choice to cut his hair or forfeit the match. The legislation’s sponsors say there are countless other incidents where children were sent home from school or denied participation in activities due to the way they wear their hair.
Sponsors add if a person of color wants to embrace their cultural identity by wearing their hair a certain way, they should be free to do so without the fear of prejudice. If you are the target of discrimination of any kind, an experienced attorney will protect you and your rights.