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Lexington passes C.R.O.W.N. Act

Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton signed the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act into legislation last Friday, which bans hair discrimination in the workplace. Crystal Washington provided council members an overview of the social and emotional effects hair-based discrimination can have on individuals.

“I had one of the council members aware of the research that I’m currently working on with my doctoral program that involved the C.R.O.W.N. Act in addition to some of the other things that I’m looking into with hair, hair bias, hair harassment, and just the freedom to wear your natural hair,” said Washington.

This issue hits close to home for her due to concerns that she’s had over how she may be perceived, which resulted in her straightening her hair when interviewing for jobs.

“I felt that that was just something that I had to do,” said Washington. “I mean, I didn’t think about, you know, whether or not it was going to get me a job, but I also felt as if I would be judged differently if my hair was left in its natural state.”

Washington is not alone with this. Both councilwomen Shayla Lynch and Denise Gray have faced similar issues and teamed up on the ordinance. “Whenever I had a job interview… one of the first stressors was, ‘How am I going to wear my hair?’” said Lynch. “When I’ve worn my hair in braids, I was called ghetto by members of the community and I’m like, ‘They’re just braids!’ Braids have been worn since the beginning of time,” said Gray.

Now that the C.R.O.W.N. Act has passed in Lexington, Tiffany Brown, the city’s equity and implementation officer, is relieved. “This is one less thing, one less barrier that people of color have to face in our community,” said Brown. Both Gray and Lynch were elected in Nov. 2022 and were thrilled that they were not only able to pass an ordinance this quickly, but one that meant a lot to them.

“This is a great first step for workers to feel secure in themselves when they go to their jobs,” said Gray. “It’s very important to me that we have this ordinance so that we feel protected in all of our spaces to express ourselves and be who we are,” said Lynch. The hope is that this will also serve as a step to educate the public on being aware of microaggressions when it comes to hair.

“There are a lot of people who experience race-based hair discrimination and microaggressions, like when somebody just walks up to you and just touches your hair,” said Brown. “That is a microaggression.”

Lexington is the fourth city in Kentucky to pass its own CROWN Act, and Washington says that she hopes it will soon get passed at the state level.

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