US: Representatives ban hair discrimination

Black people who wear hairstyles such as Afros, braids or curls should not face prejudice in society, school and the workplace, the US House of Representatives said on Friday, in a vote to make explicit that such discrimination is a violation of federal civil rights law.

“There are people in this society who think that because your hair is curly, braided, knotted or not straightened blonde or light brown, that you are somehow not worthy of access,” said Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, principal sponsor of the bill, during the debate in the lower house. “That’s discrimination”.

The House of Representatives voted 235 to 189 to ban discrimination based on hair texture and hairstyles. The bill now goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain. President Joe Biden has already said that he will sign the initiative into law.

All but 14 Republicans voted against the measure, calling it unnecessary and distracting. They said hair discrimination protections already exist in various federal laws.

“This is what the Democrats are focused on,” said Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. “Fourteen months of chaos and we’re doing a hair bill.”

But House Democrats pointed out that, in several cases, judges have dismissed civil rights cases on the grounds that the law does not directly cover discrimination based on hair. The House bill makes it clear that hair is included.

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