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Bill filed to end discrimination against hair styles in Georgia

By Beau Evans
Staff Writer
Capitol Beat News Service

Protections are being sought by Georgia Senate Democrats against racial discrimination toward hair styles like braids, locks and twists.

Pre-filed earlier this month, Senate Bill 286 would bar employers, landlords and school officials from discriminating against hair styles including “braids, locks, twists or other textured hair-dressing historically associated with an individual’s race.”

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Tonya Anderson, mimics state legislation first passed in California last year aimed at criminalizing unfair firings or housing denials based on natural hair styles. Called the “CROWN Act,” that legislation has also been brought at the federal level via a bill filed last month in the U.S. Senate.

Echoing the CROWN Act’s language, the Georgia bill frames hair-style discrimination as a source of historical discrimination against black people especially.

“Despite the great strides American society and laws have made to reverse the racist ideology that black traits are inferior, hair remains a rampant source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences,” the Georgia bill says.

Sen. Nikema Williams, who also serves as chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party, said on social media that the bill should curb discrimination black people in the state face over hair styles.

“It’s time Georgia ends hair-based discrimination in our institutions,” said Williams, D-Atlanta, a cosponsor of Anderson’s bill.

Though susceptible to controversy, the hairstyle bill probably won’t spark the kind of charged debate seen with other political issues involving race like drug enforcement or police accountability, said Emory University Professor Andra Gillespie. Sparring would more likely stem from generational gaps between younger and older lawmakers who differ in their views of socially acceptable workplace attire, she said.

“There could be an ‘OK, boomer,’ moment here,” said Gillespie, who specializes in African American political science. “You just have to wait and see if anybody does it.”

Still, Gillespie said the nationwide legislative push signals black lawmakers are hearing their constituents want these protections prioritized as workplaces grow more diverse.

“These kinds of things have come up in the past,” Gillespie said. “They are likely to continue to come up as corporate and social institutions continue to diversify.”

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