Lexington Introduces CROWN Act Ordinance to Combat Race-Based Hair Discrimination

Lexington, Ky.–Several Lexington council members are introducing an ordinance to prohibit race-based hair discrimination, known as the C.R.O.W.N. Act. This legislation, Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, aims to ensure that individuals are not discriminated against because of their natural hair texture or style.

The C.R.O.W.N. Act has gained momentum across the United States, with over a dozen states enacting similar laws. In Kentucky, discrimination based on one’s hair is currently legal. The introduction of this ordinance will now be presented to a committee, with the ultimate goal of passing it and making it go into law immediately.

The need for this legislation is apparent, with research showing that black women’s hair is 2.5 times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional. According to the DOVE 2023 workplace research study, 25% of black women believe they have been denied a job interview because of their hair, a number that is even higher for women under 34.

Councilmember Denise Gray. (Photo by Amy Wallot)

Councilwoman Denise Gray, sponsor of the ordinance, spoke on facing discrimination based on her hair when she ran for office. “Look at us on city council for the first time in history, we have women who wear their hair naturally. I too have faced discrimination in 2018, I ran for State Senate and throughout that entire time that I ran, I wore a sew-in, I wore a sew-in because I was told numerous things. But one of those things was that I needed to straighten my hair in order to gain votes, looking back in hindsight, I didn’t need that,” she told WTVQ.

Gray’s sentiment is shared by another councilwoman, Shayla Lynch, who expressed her experience of being told to straighten her hair to progress in her career. “I love to express myself through my hair, and at one point in my career, right after I graduated law school, I was rocking a huge afro and I love my afro,” she told WTVQ, “but a woman pulled me aside one day and I was in a, my professional space and said, you know, in order to succeed, you’re gonna have to straighten your hair, right? And I was taken aback because it was coming from a woman and someone that I looked up to. And so, um I put a lot of thoughts in her words because I admired her and I looked at her as a mentor and her telling me that I needed to straighten my hair in order to progress in my career really hurt me.”

Top Photo: The Crown Act