City council members in Cincinnati voted to pass an ordinance outlawing discrimination based on natural hair texture and style.
The ordinance passed with a vote of 7-1, with Councilman Jeff Pastor absent. Amy Murray was the lone “no” vote. She claims protections against hair discrimination should already be assumed to be covered in the laws the city has against racial discrimination. However, the wording of this ordinance acknowledges the racialized nature of discrimination based on hairstyle and texture and the significance of hairstyle in many Black people’s cultural identities.
Councilman Chris Seelbach, a white man, pushed the city to add specific natural hair protections to the city’s existing anti-discrimination law. He has been an activist for LGBTQ rights in the city and took up the cause of supporting natural hair after Kamara Douglas, community affairs director in his office, told him her story. She had been forced to treat her hair or wear weaves at previous jobs, which left her hair damaged and unhealthy, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports.
Legislation documents state that there are “negative, lingering, cultural biases that frequently favor hairstyles and hair types that more closely resemble Eurocentric hair types and hair styles.”
Former City Councilwoman Alicia Reece, a Black woman, was the youngest person elected to the city council in 1999 and during her campaign, she wore her hair in braids. For her choice to wear the protective hairstyle, she said, she faced hateful comments about her appearance. She praised Seelbach for pushing this new ordinance.
Under the ordinance, the city will investigate any complaints about discrimination regarding hair. The offender could face up to $1,000 in fines — $100 a day — until the discriminatory behavior is fixed.
Cincinnati is the second city in the country to pass such an ordinance, after New York, which made hair discrimination illegal in February. California became the first state to specifically ban discrimination based on natural hair texture. It passed the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) in July.
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With more activism supporting Black men and women embracing their natural hair — including styles like bantu knots, braids and dreadlocks — there have still been some high-profile cases of natural hair discrimination across the country over the past few months.
In December, a New Jersey high school wrestling referee was caught on camera forcing a Black student to have his dreadlocks cut or forfeit the match. The boy humiliatingly had his locks sheared in front of a crowd but went on to win the match. Last month, the referee was suspended for two years due to his racist behavior.
Recently, a Black sixth-grader at the Immanuel Christian School in Virginia reported being pinned down by three white boys at recess who insulted her hair and cut off several of her dreadlocks.
Though the advocates celebrated the new Cincinnati ordinance, Deborah Davis with the African American Chamber of Commerce said she found it upsetting a law was needed to prevent such discrimination, according to WCPO Cincinnati.
“What’s sad to me is that we have to have an ordinance to say that it’s acceptable for us to wear our hair in our natural state,” she said.