Michigan Lawmakers Pass The CROWN Act, Expanding Race To Include Hair Discrimination
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will officially sign the CROWN Act on June 15 following overwhelming bipartisan support from legislators.
Michigan will join 20 other states who have also passed the bill; however, the legislation will also amend the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and expand the definition of race to include hair discrimination. The bill also helps to eradicate the denial of employment based on natural hairstyles like braids, locs, twists, and Bantu knots. For a state that includes Detroit, which many call “the Blackest city in America,” the bill’s significance cannot be understated. State Sen. Sarah Anthony introduced the legislation in 2019, prompting Whitmer to establish the Black Leadership Advisory Council (BLAC) “to develop, review, and recommend policies and actions designed to eradicate and prevent discrimination and racial inequity in Michigan.”
BLAC was responsible for helping to bring attention to incidents involving an elementary school student, Jurnee Hoffmeyer, whose hair was cut by a white student and a teacher on separate occasions, according to the Detroit Free Press. The girl’s father, Jimmy Hoffmeyer, who publicly called the situation a ‘discriminatory constitutional rights violation’ at the time, praised the bill’s passage. “I’m thankful that it’s finally gone through,” he said. “Because now I hope my daughter never has to deal with something like this again.”
Sen. Anthony remarked on the expansive reach of the bill during an impassioned speech on the Senate floor, according to ABC12 News. “After I introduced the bill, men women and children all over the state of Michigan and across the country reached out to share stories of humiliation, some were very graphic, all were very heartbreaking, about how their natural hair had created boundaries or barriers for them in the workplace and in school settings,” she said.
Activist Christina Laster of the National Action Network, who became a leading voice for the state’s action around hair discrimination, says students in Michigan desperately needed the legislation’s protection. I want little Black girls and Black boys to know that who they are is valuable and meaningful and that they do not have to be inseminated for anything,” she said. “Not a school assignment, to go to a school dance, play a sport or not get a job as they get older—they should embrace and be proud of their heritage and not be forced or compelled to change that.”