The House passed legislation Friday that would ban the discrimination of Black hairstyles.
Supporters said the new legislation is necessary because Black people are often slapped with dress code violations in schools or workplaces because of their hair. In 2018, for instance, a Black high school wrestler was forced to cut his dreadlocks after a white wrestling referee said he would not be able to compete otherwise.
Hairstyles mentioned in the legislation, introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), include “hair that is tightly coiled or tightly curled, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, and Afros.”
“For too long, Black girls have been discriminated against and criminalized for the hair that grows on our heads and the way we move through and show up in this world,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass) said during debate prior to the bill’s passage.
Republicans questioned the need for the legislation, saying existing laws already ban race-based discrimination. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) carped that the House should instead focus on inflation or gas prices.
“The Democrats today, Friday, March 18, 2022, with chaos all over the place — this is what they’re focused on,” Jordan said during the debate. “This is what they’re focused on.”
Watson Coleman pushed back.
“I understand that my colleagues on the Republican side don’t get the vast array of discriminatory practices, because they spend so much time trying to perpetuate an all-white society here in the most diverse country in the world,” Watson Coleman said.
President Joe Biden also expressed support for the bill.
“The president believes that no person should be denied the ability to obtain a job, succeed in school or the workplace, secure housing, or otherwise exercise their rights based on a hair texture or hair style,” the White House said in a statement earlier this week.
The measure now goes to the Senate.