West Virginia bill bans hair discrimination in schools and workplaces

Northeast

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — As more African American women embrace and wear their natural hair, two bills in the West Virginia legislature want to make sure ethnic hair textures and hairstyles aren’t discriminated against in West Virginia schools and workplaces.

It’s called the West Virginia Crown Act.

Supporters of the bills say throughout American history, African American hair has been a point of contention.

On Saturday a rally at the West Virginia Capitol steps drew a large crowd, and speakers in support of the bills.

Posters with images of 18th-century black women in Lousiana with rags covering their hair mandated under the Tignon Law were on display next to pictures of modern black women proudly displaying their curls.

Still, those at the rally say discrimination against African-American hair is still pervasive.

Last year, Matthew Moore, a black student in Beckley wasn’t allowed to play a basketball game because of his dreads.

“And I’m in the front seat, he’s in the backseat sitting there with a pick trying to rip his dreads out — if anybody knows, when you have dreads it’s a long-term commitment,” said his mother.

Yvonne Lee says she’s been wearing her hair natural for four years.

“I can get up in the morning, I can either not put my makeup on, put my makeup on, still look good, get up and go and handle business,” Lee said. “I am a social worker. I’m boots on the ground – I don’t have time to be worrying about hair.”

The West Virginia Crown Act is two bills: HB 2698 and SB 108.

They have already been introduced and are in the committee phase.

Del. Danielle Walker (D-Monongalia) says they’re calling it the West Virginia Crown Act out of respect, and because they want West Virginia to protect black people’s ‘crowns’.

“If you think there is something wrong with my kinks you need to get the kinks out of your mind,” said Walker.

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