California bans workplace, schools discrimination on hairstyle

California’s Governor Gavin Newsom has signed into law a bill making California the first state to ban workplace and school discrimination against black people for wearing hairstyles such as braids, twists, and locks.

The law by Democratic Senator Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, a black woman who wears her hair in locks, makes California the first state to explicitly say that those hairstyles are associated with race and therefore protected against discrimination in the workplace and in schools.

“We are changing the course of history, hopefully, across this country by acknowledging that what has been defined as professional hairstyles and attire in the workplace has historically been based on a Euro-centric model – based on straight hair,” Mitchell said.

Stephanie Hunter-Ray, who works at a makeup counter, says she typically wears her hair braided or in an afro, but one day she showed up to work with it straightened and styled in a bob. Her manager told Hunter-Ray her hair had never looked so normal.

“It bothered me,” Hunter-Ray said in an interview at the hair salon she owns in Sacramento that specialises in natural hairstyles. “What do you mean by ‘normal?’ Your normal is not normal. My normal is my ‘fro or my braids.’

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