Friday was an epic day for Black women in Congress—and for people of color across the country.
Rep. Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat proudly representing the United States Virgin Islands, shared the news that the House passed the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) to outlaw discrimination against ethnic hairstyles in the workplace and at schools, where teary-eyed Black students have been asked to leave their classrooms because of the way they chose to wear their hair. To celebrate the win, Plaskett tweeted an adorable throwback photo from 2006, when she rocked gorgeous, thick locs.
Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, another inspiring Black warrior who’s been graciously open about living with alopecia—a condition that causes baldness—excitedly took to the House Floor to champion the message that all hair should be respected and celebrated. “By passing the CROWN Act today, we affirm, say it loud, Black is beautiful and so is our hair,” she said in a rousing speech. “You deserve to show up as your full self, rockin’ your crown, with your head held high.”
As a Black woman who has lived in both my homeland of Nigeria and the country of my birth, the United States, my personal testimony about hair woes follows a similar path as many of my Black women counterparts who have all endured the unwarranted judgment and blatantly ignorant comments aimed at stripping us of our self-worth.
Growing up in the former capital city of Lagos as a flustered youngster from America struggling to adjust to a foreign culture, I was rudely awakened to stringent social rules of hair styling, especially at boarding school. Like most Black girls with hair textures that inspire stylists to complain about “coarseness,” I learned very quickly about my lack of bargaining power.
Relocating to the States didn’t improve things, as I found myself relying mostly on hair relaxers for the easy fix and peace of mind that seemed to make me acceptable in the corporate world and beyond. It took a level of defiance and a depleting bank account from bi-weekly salon visits for me to finally wean myself off a very expensive habit that had felt mandated by bigoted standards. I felt so seen when actress Gabrielle Union recently spoke to PEOPLE Magazine about her hair journey and how her childhood in a mostly white enclave of the Bay Area made her struggle to embrace her natural hair.
The passing of the Crown Act bill is monumental for many reasons, but mostly because it strips away at the longstanding racism that has been allowed to flourish without issue, due to the lack of much-needed legislation to help reclaim our humanity from the racist officials and institutions that refuse to recognize basic human rights. Of course, we shouldn’t need a government-approved protection in order to showcase our hairstyles without threats and practiced discrimination. But for a population that has patiently weathered the storm of systemic prejudice, to which even 2-year-old Blue Ivy Carter wasn’t immune, I say: It’s about time.