Flint, MI— The Flint City Council has just approved a resolution which would prohibit discrimination based on “hair texture and protective hairstyles,” as it relates to employment and services with the city.
This resolution was brought before the council first during a committee meeting on April 21. On April 26, during the regular city council meeting, the council voted to approve the resolution.
During the committee meeting, Councilwoman Monica Galloway shared a personal experience of receiving comments about her hair at work, which was something she said she’d never forget.
“I remember being 23 years old, and Queen Latifah was on the front of one of the hair magazines, and she had, when the goddess braids first came out, and there was this style, that had the one goddess braid that cupped around your face,” Galloway said. “I found someone that did it, and I mean I thought I looked just like the front of the magazine.”
When she went into work at the bank with that hairstyle, she said her branch manager said to her, “You’re really advancing very quickly…and you know, people will look at your hair.”
Before this resolution was passed, the City’s Title VI Non-Discrimination plan already prohibited discrimination based on race, color, national origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, and other factors unrelated to an individual’s ability to perform the duties of their job.
This resolution declares the term “race,” will now be inclusive of traits associated with race, such as hair texture and protective hairstyles which include braids, locks, and twists.
The City put forth this resolution with the understanding that “people of color have historically been subjected to…discrimination based on hair texture and protective hairstyles,” but also in light of recent studies highlighting current issues in employment discrimination.
One study in 2019, by the C.R.O.W.N. Coalition (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) surveyed about 2,000 women (1,000 Black and 1,000 non-Black) ages 25-64 working in office settings across the United States to see how “societal norms and corporate grooming policies” impacted Black women at work.
The survey showed that Black women were 1.5 times more likely to have reported being sent home or knowing a Black woman that was sent home from work because of their hair, and were 80% more likely to change their natural hair to meet expectations at work. Black women reported fearing scrutiny and discrimination by wearing their natural hair.
The survey also found that between two images of the same hairstyle on a Black and white woman, the white woman was rated 25% higher in ‘job readiness’ than the Black woman. Locs, braids, bantu knots, and other natural Black hairstyles were ranked the lowest for ‘job readiness.’
Those results were consistent with another study published last year by two researchers from Michigan State University and Duke University, who studied the bias against Black women with natural hair in the workplace.
In this study, participants were given profiles of Black and white female job candidates and were asked to rate them on professionalism and competence. Black women with natural hairstyles received lower scores on professionalism and were perceived as less competent than Black women with straightened hairstyles, and white women with curly or straight hairstyles. They also found that Black women with natural hairstyles received more negative evaluations in their job applications.
In 2019, California passed The CROWN Act, a bill to ensure that hair texture and hairstyle are protected from discrimination in the workplace as well as in schools. It has since become law in a handful of other states, and is being considered in others.
State Representative Sarah Anthony of Lansing introduced the CROWN Act in Michigan in 2019, but it failed to become law. In February 2021, Anthony reintroduced the act which would amend the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act to make the term “race” inclusive of hair texture and protective styles.
The Flint City Council unanimously voted to approve this resolution for the City of Flint.
During the committee meeting, Councilwoman Galloway asked about how discrimination against hair would be measured. Attorney Kelly Thompson said it would be a “case by case basis.”
“The purpose of this is just that there is protection under the City’s anti-discrimination policy,” Thompson said. “So, if there were to be a case of discrimination based on someone’s hairstyle, then that would be something that we would look at based on the circumstances of that case.”