Rep. Cori Bush Calls on Congress to End Race-Based Hair Discrimination

“Suspending a Black student for having locs is anti-Blackness.”

Craig Hudson/AP

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After a high-profile incident in which a Black teen was punished over the length of his hair, Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) is pushing for federal protections against hair-based discrimination. 

In a tweet on Friday, Bush called on Congress to pass the CROWN Act, a bill designed to protect marginalized communities from hair-based discrimination in school and work settings nationwide. She cited the case of Darryl George, an 18-year-old Texas student who was suspended twice from Barbers Hill High School for refusing to cut his locs. The superintendent has claimed that the policy isn’t racist but instead teaches students “sacrifice” and conformity.

George’s family launched a formal complaint against the school district, calling the dress code a direct violation of the state’s CROWN Act. They also filed a lawsuit against Gov. Greg Abbott for failing to enforce the law. George, who reportedly served a second stint of in-school suspension shortly after returning from an off-site disciplinary program in November, has described the entire ordeal as incredibly stressful.  

“Why should I cut my hair for my education?” Geoge told MSNBC in December. “My hair has nothing to do with my education.” 

In a recent hearing, attorneys for the school district said that there are no federal protections for students’ hairstyle and length, according to the Associated Press. While 24 states have adopted the CROWN Act, Republican senators have successfully blocked the anti-discrimination bill’s passing on a federal level twice since its introduction in 2021. According to the Economic Policy Institute, legislators did not bring it before Congress in 2023.

But, as my colleague nia t. evans and I covered in October, the fight to end hair discrimination does not solely rest on passing the CROWN Act. According to education and racial justice advocates, several steps, including the hiring of Black teachers and mobilization of Black parents, are necessary to eradicate this kind of bigotry from the nation’s school system alone.

“The fact that we even have to have a CROWN Act says so much about this country,” Dr. Bettina Love, author of Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal, told Mother Jones.  “It is unbelievable that we are fighting in 2023 for Black folks to be able to wear their hair the way they want to.”

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