Bill to ban hairstyle discrimination proposed in Philly City Council

Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker proposed CROWN legislation in City Council on Thursday (Philadelphia Tribune photo).

By Michael D’Onofrio

PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia could be the next government to ban discrimination based on hairstyles associated with race.

City Council legislation proposed Thursday would make hairstyle discrimination illegal in housing, employment, school, competitive sports and other areas.

Councilwoman Cherelle Parker, the main sponsor of the bill, said “hair discrimination is still very much a reality for Black people.”

“As a Black woman, I personally understand how we’ve been forced to conform to mainstream standards of beauty for decades,” she said.

Parker’s legislation was sent to a council committee for a hearing, which has yet to be scheduled.

Pennsylvania lawmaker aims to stamp out hair-based discrimination

If the legislation is passed, Philadelphia could join Cincinnati, Ohio, and Montgomery County, Maryland, in passing bans on hairstyle discrimination at the local and county level. Statewide bans now exist in California, New Jersey and New York. Parker said her bill was based on many of those bills, which are known as Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) legislation.

The legislation would add hairstyle discrimination to the city’s existing discrimination ban.

The proposal defines hairstyles as hair texture and styles of hair of any length, such as protective or cultural hairstyles, natural hairstyles and other forms of hair presentation. Cultural hairstyles protected under the bill include locs, braids, cornrows, Bantu knots, Afros and hair extensions, as well as adornments, such as beads or barrettes.

Hair discrimination particularly affects African Americans, and has been reported in Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey and Texas. In 2018, a New Jersey high school wrestler was forced by an official to cut his locs or forfeit his bout.

Michael D’Onofrio is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.