Hair love has become law in the Commonwealth.
Virginia on Wednesday became the fourth state – following California, New York and New Jersey – to officially ban hair discrimination. The law comes on the heels of a nationwide movement around the “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act,” or the CROWN Act, which would “ensure protection against discrimination based on hairstyles.”
The legislation garnered national attention earlier this year after Matthew A. Cherry won an Academy Award for best animated short for “Hair Love,” which follows the story of a black father trying to do his daughter’s hair for the first time.
“Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation,” Cherry said during his acceptance speech. “We wanted to normalize black hair. There’s a very important issue that’s out there, the CROWN Act, and if we can’t help to get this passed in all 50 states it will help stories like DeAndre Arnold’s who’s our special guest tonight.”
Arnold, a senior at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu, Texas, made headlines after he was told he couldn’t walk at graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks to comply with the school’s dress code.
His experience is among a handful of stories about hair discrimination that sparked controversy and support nationwide.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement that the new bill “will make our Commonwealth more equitable and welcoming for all.” The bill specifically bans racial discrimination based on, “traits historically associated with race, including hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks, and twists.”
“It’s pretty simple – if we send children home from school because their hair looks a certain way, or otherwise ban certain hairstyles associated with a particular race – that is discrimination,” Northam said. “This is not only unacceptable and wrong, it is not what we stand for in Virginia.”
Other states – including Colorado, Washington and Minnesota – are considering passing similar legislation.
Leah Asmelash contributed to this report.