Supporters hope hair discrimination bill resurfaces this legislative session

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 ) – With less than two weeks left in the general session, supporters of the CROWN Act want lawmakers to hear the issue again.

The CROWN Act stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair. It specifically addresses the discrimination people of color, mainly Black women, experience for choosing not to wear their hair in Eurocentric styles in school and at the workplace.

Earlier this month, Senator Derek Kitchen of Salt Lake City introduced the bill in committee. Due to a 2-2 tie, the bill didn’t advance.

Supporters of the bill want it reintroduced.

Tereza Richardson shared her stories of hair discrimination while giving her testimony during the hearing.

“When the senator made his comments and said basically that ‘I love you and your hair is beautiful, but we’re not going to go through with this because we don’t see it and we don’t believe it happens as much as you say it does.’ It was just hurtful.”

Tereza Richardson in elementary school

At just 16, Richardson says she’s experienced hair discrimination since elementary school.

“People would throw pencils in my hair,” she said. “Whenever, I had my hair in braids, people would ask so many questions.”

Holly Richardson is Tereza’s mother.

“Because I’ve adopted children of color, I have seen and experienced things that I never did as a white mother,” says Holly. “One of the things that I have come to realize is that I do have privilege as a white person in this country. It’s sad to me. It’s disturbing to me that she’s not even out of high school yet and she already has people telling her she needs to straighten her hair so she looks more professional.”

Both Holly and Tereza are hoping the bill is reintroduced by the end of the current general session or in the near future.

So does University of Utah Law Professor Erika George.

In a statement to ABC4, George said: “I am disappointed that not enough of our elected representatives were willing to demonstrate a clear commitment to the equality of all members of our community when presented with the opportunity to do so with SB80 amendments introducing The Crown Act for Utah. The measure merely sought to secure protection for people who are subjected to discrimination, usually Black people, for the texture of their hair of traditional ways of styling hair common to certain cultures. Utah’s continued failure to take seriously the injury of unfair discrimination offends notions of equality and autonomy I also worry it will be harmful for the state’s economy as we become a more diverse community. Other states have passed similar measures. We must do better than we have. We must do better than this.”

ABC4 did reach out to Senator Derek Kitchen to ask if and when this bill is being introduced. We have yet to hear back.

Nationally, legislation for the CROWN Act has already passed in seven states after the CROWN coalition was founded in 2019 by personal care brand Dove along with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, Color of Change, and National Urban League.

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