Chairman Nadler Statement for the Markup of H.R. 2116, the CROWN Act of 2021
Washington, September 30, 2021
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during the markup of H.R. 2116, the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2021 or the CROWN Act:
"H.R. 2116, the 'Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2021,' or the 'CROWN Act,' explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of hair texture or hairstyles commonly associated with a particular race or national origin in areas of the law where discrimination on the basis of race or national origin is already prohibited.
"To be clear, it is my view that existing civil rights statutes already make such kind of hair-based discrimination unlawful. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agrees, having issued guidance interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit such discrimination as a form of race discrimination in certain circumstances.
"Unfortunately, several federal courts have erroneously rejected this interpretation, which is why the CROWN Act is urgently needed. This legislation will leave no ambiguity that in key areas in which federal law prohibits race and national origin discrimination—such as employment, housing, and public accommodations—discrimination based on an individual’s hair texture or hairstyle, if they are commonly associated with a particular race or national origin, is unlawful.
"The history of discrimination in this country is unfortunately older than the country itself, and we are still living with the consequences today. Congress took a pivotal step in the fight against racism and discrimination when it passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race and national origin, as well as other characteristics, in key areas of life.
"This law did not eliminate discrimination entirely—one cannot legislate away hate—but it provided critical recourse for those who face discrimination, and it made clear that the government has a compelling interest in protecting against discrimination.
"While racism and discrimination sometimes appear in overt forms, they can also manifest themselves in more subtle ways. One way is discrimination based on natural hairstyles and hair textures associated with people of African descent.
"Often, these hairstyles are protective—such as tucking the ends of one’s hair away to minimize manipulation and exposure to the weather—and they can play an important role in helping keep one’s hair healthy.
"But according to a 2019 study of Black and non-Black women conducted by the JOY Collective, Black people are 'disproportionately burdened by policies and practices in public places, including the workplace, that target, profile, or single them out for natural hair styles' and other hairstyles traditionally associated with their race, like braids, locs, and twists.
"Among the study’s other findings are that 80 percent of Black women believed that they had to change their hair from its natural state to 'fit in at the office' and that they were 83 percent more likely to be judged harshly because of their looks.
"While this study illustrates the prevalence of hair discrimination, numerous stories across the country put names and faces to the people behind those numbers.
"For example, a Texas student was told that he would not be allowed to walk at graduation because his dreadlocks were too long; a Florida boy was turned away from his first day of school because his hair was too long; and a New Orleans-area girl was sent home for wearing braids.
"Unfortunately, these incidents are not restricted just to schools; there have been numerous reports of Black employees being told to change their hair because it violated their company’s dress code or being denied employment in the first place because of their hairstyles.
"In view of these disturbing facts, in 2019 California enacted legislation extending certain anti-discrimination statutes to prohibit discrimination on the basis of an individual’s natural hairstyle. Since then, thirteen other states have enacted similar laws—in every case with bipartisan support and sometimes even with the unanimous support of both parties.
"While I applaud these states for taking action, this is a matter of basic justice that demands a national solution by Congress. That is why I support the CROWN Act."This legislation passed the Committee and the House by voice vote last year, and I hope that we will do so again this year. I thank the Gentlewoman from New Jersey, Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, for introducing and championing this important bill this Congress. I support this legislation, and I urge the Committee to report it favorably to the House."