Hair discrimination is a proxy for racial discrimination, Rep. Esther Agbaje (DFL-Mpls) said on the House Floor Wednesday.
She spoke about the many times she has felt pressure to straighten her natural hair out of fear of losing a job or not being taken as seriously in the workplace.
Agbaje sponsors HF37, passed by the House 111-19, which specifies that racial discrimination prohibited under the Minnesota Human Rights Act would include discrimination based on “traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and hair styles such as braids, locs, and twists.”
“The purpose of the bill is to allow more people to show up as their authentic selves in school or in the workplace without fear of repercussion because of their hair,” she said.
While the bill would apply to all hairstyles, Black people have been particularly burdened by discrimination based on hair, said Agbaje.
She cited research showing that 80% of Black women have had to change their natural hair to fit in at the office.
A similar bill sponsored by Agbaje last session passed the House but was not acted on by the Senate.
The language in the bill comes from the CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” and has been adopted by 19 other states.
“By adding this clarifying definition to our law, we can proudly say that Minnesota is an inclusive state that wants everyone to thrive and not have the additional mental strain of worrying about their hair,” she said.
“In 2023, we should not be asking people to tamp down their identity or their culture.”