Montgomery County, Maryland, is the first county in the U.S. to pass legislation banning discrimination based on a person’s natural hairstyle.
The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously this week for a bill that prohibits any discrimination in housing, taxi service and other public accommodations based on a person’s natural hair, WTOP reported. A person who is discriminated against can seek a penalty of up to $5,000 through the Maryland county’s Office of Human Rights.
“It will expand the definition of race to include natural hairstyles, like Afros, twists, Bantu knots, and protective hair styles like braids, that people of African descent wear,” Montgomery County Council member Will Jawando (D) said. He led the effort alongside Council President Nancy Navarro, WTOP reported.
“We have over 200,000 black and Latina women in Montgomery County, many of whom get up every day and make decisions about how they are going to present themselves to the world,” he continued.
Navarro said her daughter’s hair is naturally curly, and that her daughter spoke with her about her experience in school.
“When she was in middle school, there was this struggle about me constantly telling her how beautiful she was as ‘wear your hair out, and wear it natural.’ And, there was this sense of ‘No, I’ve got to kind of tame it,’” Navarro said, according to WTOP.
Navarro added that the legislation will “make sure that everybody in this county understands that we see you.”
The bill is called the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. This year, New York and California have both enacted similar legislation to ban discrimination against natural hair. Legislation has also been introduced in Wisconsin, Kentucky, New Jersey, Tennessee, Michigan and Illinois.