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California Bans Workplace, School Rules About Curly Hair Because That’s Racist


California recently passed the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair). Under CROWN, employers and public schools may not ban “natural” hairstyles historically associated with black culture, such as braids, locks, and twists. To justify the need for CROWN, the preamble claims American history is “riddled” with laws and societal norms that have denigrated blackness and associated racial traits such as “kinky and curly hair.”

The act goes on to state that professionalism “was, and still is, closely linked to European features and manners.” According to the CROWN’s drafters, these standards have forced “those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms” to alter their appearance to be deemed professional. To right these alleged wrongs, the California legislature passed CROWN to crack down on “purportedly race-neutral grooming policies” that enforce a “Eurocentric image of professionalism.”

My parents are from Caucasian, Southern stock. Nonetheless, one of my brothers has incredibly curly hair, which he has been known to wear in dreadlocks. Yet CROWN goes out of its way to highlight black hairstyles. Once again, leftists seek to divide us on racial lines. California’s heightened focus on physical traits is hardly a step forward for race relations or healing our divided culture.

Beauty comes in all shapes, styles, and colors—including hair. The CROWN Act exemplifies everything that is wrong with California. Here’s why leftist politicians should get out of our hair.

The CROWN Act Will Only Add to Grievance Culture

We need to understand exactly what laws do. Despite its name, the CROWN Act is not just a vaguely aspirational statement to make us all feel good about being inclusive. It’s part of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and backed by an army of bureaucrats and attorneys.

Employees with natural black hairstyles are now a protected class. Every rejection letter, disciplinary notice, or termination must now consider hairstyle as a risk factor.

In my employment law practice, I expect to see many new complaints under the CROWN Act. Instead of dealing with honest-to-goodness workplace discrimination, we’re going to be wasting even more of our precious time and resources diverted to legal grievance mechanisms—now with frivolous complaints about hair.

Don’t Tread On My Dress Code

Employers often ask me to comment on their workplace dress codes. Depending on the business, dress codes can serve a variety of purposes. They help minimize distraction, create a shared work culture, promote respect, and ensure safety.

The dress code for a family-friendly theme park will be different from that of an auto repair shop, which will be different from an accounting firm. In a free society, each employer should be able to set its standards based on business needs.

Yet this freedom has been significantly eroded. Employers have come under attack for dress codes that allegedly promote sex stereotypes or conflict with religious garb. Several years ago, a Muslim woman sued Disneyland after multiple accommodation attempts by Disney, because her assigned costume did not allow her to wear a hijab.

In a more recent case, the Supreme Court will determine the rights of a transgender employee who sued his employer, a funeral home, for insisting on a dress code pegged to biological sex. The Gadsden Flag is even now suspect in some workplaces, simply because “someone” “somewhere” may have espoused what were deemed to be “racist” views.

As such disputes have sadly become commonplace, I now advise employers to keep their dress codes as generic as possible to save themselves the hassle. Corporate culture itself has become ever more generic, ever more cautious. An all-powerful government now dictates what is appropriate and inappropriate for our workplaces—including, apparently, our hairstyles.

Professionalism Isn’t Racist, It’s Good For Everyone

One of the most laughable aspects of the CROWN Act is how it attacks professionalism as inherently racist. This is ridiculous. Professional grooming is a matter of respect. It involves being neat, clean, and appropriate for the given situation.

I have seen afros, braids, locks, and twists that are neat and professional. I have seen the same styles used in an unprofessional and distracting manner. This is not a race issue. People of every racial background can, and do, neglect their hair or take it to extremes. Think mohawks, mullets, and blue or pink dye jobs.

Professionalism takes effort, no matter your race or hair type. Depending on the job or scenario, everyone must alter his or her appearance to at least some degree to be deemed professional.

I have very thick, coarse hair. In its most natural state, it looks frizzy and disheveled. If I have an important client meeting, I‘ll spend significant time and effort to arrange my hair “artificially,” so it looks tidy and won’t distract from my message.

A little time spent on our appearance shows respect for the company that pays our wages, and the consumers that purchase our goods and services. The CROWN Act chips away at that respect while playing the race card.

The Distraction of Virtue Signaling

Scholar Victor Davis Hanson and others have done extensive work detailing California’s decline. Between its overspending, overregulation, congestion, homelessness, and urban filth, the state is a mess. You would think that the California legislature should be busily burning the midnight oil trying to find solutions to their multitude of problems. No, apparently “hair discrimination in the workplace” is the real crisis.

California should stand up for the needs of black people, and all of its citizens, with policies that promote families and job creation. Instead, leftist politicians attack the very idea of professionalism, while forcing employers to tiptoe around even more workplace rules and regulations to avoid being labeled “racist.”

California, we’re tired of the virtue signaling. You have bigger problems than big hair.