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State Rep. Sarah Anthony calls natural hair discrimination thinly veiled racism. She wants to end it

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Posted at 8:39 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 20:39:20-05

LANSING, Mich. — State Rep. Sarah Anthony has reintroduced the Michigan Crown Act, a bill that would make it illegal for employers, schools and landlords to discriminate against people who wear natural hair styles.

"Essentially the bill would explicitly state that hair is a trait historically associated with race including hair texture and protective styles. And as such this would ban discrimination on the basis of hair,” Anthony said.

The Crown Act has received national attention and several states have already passed something like it into law. Anthony introduced a similar bill in 2019, but it never received a hearing in government operations. She's trying again.

Anthony has called discrimination against natural hair "a thinly veiled excuse to discriminate based on race." She says the bill is a response from the men and women in the community and across the state who have experienced discrimination.

"Here in Michigan, we started to hear the stories of men, women and children who had experienced hair discrimination. Whether it was children who were told they couldn’t take their school pictures, couldn’t graduate and walk across the stage with their friends or men and women who were looked over for promotions for job opportunities," Anthony said.

I've struggled with hair discrimination, too, felt like my hair wasn't professional or good enough in some situations. I started off my career as a reporter wearing my hair straight or wearing wigs to fit into a world that I believed wouldn't accept my natural hair.

The constant straightening of my hair was damaging it. It would break off or fall out.

Anthony says her experience with chemically straightening her hair was affecting her health.

"About 15 years [ago], actually, I decided to stop chemically straightening my hair. It was devastating to my heath. I suffer from thyroids and the chemicals that were used to straighten my hair in order to be more acceptable in the workplace were actually damaging my physical health. So, I made that decision to stop doing so," Anthony said.

I did the same thing three years ago. With some encouraging words from coworkers, I embraced my natural hair. I want to be that person that shows little girls that their natural hair is OK.

Anthony says she makes it a point to change up her hair in order to instill the same lesson in her nieces and children across the region.

“Every time that I am sworn in, and I’ve been sworn in three or four times, I have a different hairstyle. I do that to prove to my nieces that you should be able to show up in the workplace anyway that you like. As long as it is professional in your eyes and you showing up as your best self,” Anthony said.

A recent study from Michigan State University and Duke University found that Black women with natural hairstyles were seen as less professional and less likely to get job interviews compared to Black women with straight hair or white women.

"I think that it's important to make sure people are on a journey to be more inclusive of all types of individuals that show up in the workplace," Anthony said.

She is hoping the bill receives more serious consideration this time around...before it ends up on the governor's desk.

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Kaisha Young

Kaisha Young

11:14 AM, Jan 14, 2021

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Kaisha Young