Virginia has officially banned discrimination based on someone’s hair type or style. Gov. Ralph Northam signed legislation on March 4 banning discrimination based on traits that are “typically associated with race,” like hair texture or type. It also included hair styles like braids, twists or locks, all of which are commonly used by people of African American descent.
According to the 2019 Dove CROWN Study, African Americans are disproportionately affected by policies in schools and in the workplace that target natural hair styles. For instance, black women in the workforce are more likely to have received a formal grooming policy from the company they work for than women without kinky, curly or braided hair.
The issue of hair discrimination has been in the spotlight in recent years following an incident in 2018 when a high school wrestler in New Jersey was forced to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit his match. Since then, the referee who forced the student to cut his hair was suspended for two seasons and state officials have insisted upon mandatory bias training for referees and coached in high school athletics.
“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,” said Northam in a statement. “This is not only unacceptable and wrong, it is not what we stand for in Virginia. This bill will make our Commonwealth more equitable and welcoming for all.”
States like California, New York and New Jersey all have laws on their books already to prevent hair discrimination and localities like Cincinnati, Ohio and Montgomery County, Maryland also have their own versions of the law.
“A person’s hair is a core part of their identity,” said Del. Delores McQuinn in a statement. McQuinn sponsored the new legislation. “Nobody deserves to be discriminated against simply due to the hair type they were born with, or the way in which they choose to wear it. The acceptance of one’s self is the key to accepting others.”
Virginia’s new law will take effect on July 1.