Many states have outlawed hair discrimination—Minnesota should be next

January 10, 2023 | By MSR News Online

If you don’t know the importance of hair in Black culture, consider this quote from Dr. Ashley McMullen, from the podcast Black Voices in Healthcare: “The story of my Black hair is the story of my life.”

Hair is a source of joy, beauty and pride to many Black people. It can also be a source of pain that starts early. According to the CROWN research study, more than 50% of Black mothers say their daughters faced discrimination because of their hair when they were just five years old.

Today in Minnesota, it is legal to discriminate against a person because of their hair. It happens at work. It happens at school. It happens in all kinds of settings. For too long, too many people have judged Black hair and hairstyles as different, distracting, and unprofessional. For too long in mainstream culture, Black hair has meant unique, but wrong for the workplace.

Thankfully that attitude is changing. In Minnesota, Representative Esther Agbaje and Senator Bobby Joe Champion have introduced the CROWN Act, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.” We applaud the Minnesota House of Representatives for discussing and voting on the CROWN Act this week and are looking forward to the Senate doing the same in the coming weeks.  

You may be wondering—why do we, a business coalition and a children’s health system, want the CROWN Act passed?

The Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity (MBCRE), comprised of 50 MN-based companies, exists for businesses to work together to build a more just and prosperous state with and for Black Minnesotans. Our members work to ensure that Black Minnesotans are hired, retained, and can advance in an inclusive workplace, devoid of race-based discrimination.

Formed in the midst of the racial reckoning in 2020, business leaders of many of our state’s most prominent employers came together because they understand that it’s not enough to have racial diversity in the workplace, we must continue to build environments where everyone has the freedom to express their ideas and authenticity. We strongly support the CROWN Act because it contributes to more inclusive work environments and signals that all employees are welcome to bring their full selves to work, including wearing their natural hair. Our businesses benefit when that happens.

At Children’s Minnesota, the largest pediatric health system in the state, we serve young people of all races and ethnicities, with a variety of hair textures and curl patterns. We know that caring for children in our hospitals means caring for their hair the way they would at home. We work with Black, Indigenous, Asian and Latino-owned businesses to source appropriate products. Our staff learns how to use them. We talk with our patient families about their individual needs. We want them to feel seen and included. This helps us build trust, ultimately resulting in better care.

Black Minnesotans should not be forced to divest themselves of their racial or cultural identity by changing their hair to adapt at work, school, in the hospital or anywhere else. They should not be made to feel less than because of how their hair looks. When it comes to our children, and Minnesotans of all ages, there is no place for shaming, discrimination and exclusion.

We urge the House and Senate to pass this bill so that we can protect Minnesotans of all races and ethnicities against discrimination based on hair texture and style. Enacting the CROWN Act is an important step to ensuring all of our state’s citizens are treated equitably and fairly.

Tiffani Daniels, Managing Director, Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity

James C. Burroughs II, senior vice president, government and community relations, chief equity and inclusion officer, Children’s Minnesota

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