In a marathon session at the Texas House Affairs Committee on Thursday, a hearing was held for the introduction of House Bill 567, with a group of witnesses testifying for it. This bill aims to put an end to hair discrimination and safeguard men and women from discrimination based on hair texture, as well as hairdos that are commonly associated with race. State Representative Rhetta Andrews Bowers from Garland sponsored the bill, which has gained momentum as part of a national movement, the CROWN Act, that has already been passed in 20 states.
“The CROWN act stands for creating a respectful and open world for our natural hair, and it is a national movement with passage already in 20 states,” said Andrews Bowers during the hearing.
The bill includes a list of protected hairstyles that can no longer be subjected to discriminatory practices. Among them are braids, locks, and twists. During her testimony, witness Angel Carroll, the Director of Advocacy for MEASURE, an Austin-based research nonprofit, recalled a traumatic experience from 2008 when she was compelled to cut her braids due to the school dress code policy. This kind of policy usually deems certain hairstyles “distracting” and “extreme,” and repeatedly marginalizes individuals of color.
“Kids who face hair discrimination are subject to removal from an educational setting such as suspensions, or they are denied opportunities to participate in extra-curricular or ceremonial activities, like graduation,” explained Sharon Watkins Jones, Chief Equity Officer of Children at Risk.
Notably, no witnesses spoke out against the bill. Last session, the bill passed the committee unanimously but eventually fell short of making it to the full House floor before time ran out. Andrews Bowers is optimistic that this time around it will be different, while witnesses at the hearing shared their experiences of feeling humiliated and discriminated against on the basis of their hair.
The bill is a crucial step towards eradicating racial disparity and making the world a more just and equitable place for everyone. For those that want more information, HB 567 can be accessed online at the Texas State Legislature website.