West Virginia Republicans Double Down On Anti-Blackness By Vetoing The CROWN Act

CROWN Act advocates in West Virginia suffer a hefty blow after a bill against hair discrimination fails in the state's legislature.

Despite the push by Black hair advocates and politicians in support of it, the CROWN Act has failed in West Virginia. Republican lawmakers killed the bill to ban hair discrimination.

The bill’s most recent version, SB 496, intended to prohibit the discrimination of certain hairstyles and textures “historically associated with a particular race.”

NBC News reports that Republican Senator Eric Tarr sent the bill to the Senate Finance Committee in a successful effort to stall it. Overseeing the committee himself, he argued that potential hair discrimination lawsuits would be too costly for the state, a claim the Human Rights Commission debunked.

Versions of the CROWN Act have been introduced or enacted in the vast majority of states, with 20 currently having laws in place. Its push in West Virginia was also prompted by its own hair discrimination incidents, such as when a high school basketball player was benched due to the length of his locs in 2019, as reported by ABC4 WOAY.

“It was definitely a slap in the face. I was extremely disappointed because I felt that this year was the year that it would see its way through [the legislature],” said Veronica Bunch, 44, one of the state’s CROWN Act advocates. “The leadership we have, and the state itself, I just feel like we’re so regressed in our opinions and our views. In regards to African Americans, we tend to get pushed aside.”

The retiring Democratic senator who introduced the bill, Mike Caputo, also spoke out against its short-lived progression.

“We hear horror stories all the time about how, particularly women of color, are treated differently because of their hairstyle, their natural hairstyle, or their traditional hairstyles,” said the lawmaker. “We need to move forward in America, not backward. It’s a shame we still are having discussions like that. I’m ashamed that in West Virginia, we can’t at least do that much.” 

Advocates will have to wait until next year for another lawmaker to sponsor the CROWN Act bill.

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