TOPEKA (KSNT) – Thirteen states have inducted anti-hair discrimination legislation, but for years the state of Kansas has lagged behind.
Some legislators say that could change in this legislature. The CROWN Act, also known as the “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” prohibits discrimination against Kansans with natural hair, including hairstyles like dreadlocks, afros and braids.
The bill was first introduced in 2019 as Senate Bill 250, but quickly died in committee. Now, in 2023, legislators like Democrat Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau hope to breathe new life into the legislation with SB 36. Faust-Goudeau says even she would benefit from the legislation as a black woman representing over 75,000 Kansans in Wichita.
“I don’t want to have to come to the Kansas State capitol and try to figure out ‘how am I going to do my hair today?’ Faust-Goudeau said.
Faust-Goudeau expanded the bill to include the health affects on black women who straighten their hair.
“Women have had to straighten their hair to fit in,” Faust-Goudeau said. “We are finding out that it causes cancer [from relaxers].”
Democrat Rep. Stephanie Clayton says she is optimistic about the first hearing on the CROWN Act in the Kansas House. The former Republican was approached by Faust-Goudeau to form a bicameral partnership on the legislation.
“When I was younger,” Clayton said, “A lot of my classmates would spend hours doing something they aren’t supposed to do because of societal standards, and it’s morally wrong.”
Lucy Obit, the owner of Midwest Barber College in Topeka is a Kenya native who was surprised after learning the standards some black men and women are forced to uphold in order to be seen as professional.
“Braids were just natural,” Obit said. I feel like in America, you have to be made to conform to be successful.”
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