© 2024 WUKY
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Race-based hair discrimination ban gaining momentum in Lexington

An onlooker observes a rally for the CROWN Act outside the Kentucky Capitol on March 1, 2023.
Josh James
An onlooker observes a rally for the CROWN Act outside the Kentucky Capitol on March 1, 2023.

A movement to bar race-based hair discrimination is on the move in Lexington city government. WUKY's Josh James has more on the work being done to implement a local version of the CROWN Act.

CROWN is an acronym that stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, and the associated legislation has been gaining momentum in states and cities across the country. The act bans discrimination based on cultural hairstyles such as braids, dreadlocks, twists, and others.

"Currently it is perfectly illegal to discriminate based off of natural hairstyles," Lexington Equity and Implementation Officer Tiffany Brown said in a presentation.

Discussing the issue in committee, Councilwoman Shayla Lynch, who has helped push the issue forward on the local level, recounted a conversation she had with a colleague earlier in her career.

"I was approached and told that, in order to be able to excel in my profession, I needed to straighten my hair, that my hair in its natural state in my afro, was not professional, and if I was going to be successful then I needed to change my hairstyle" she recalled. "That was very impactful on my life... how I felt about my appearance in the workplace."

The ACLU reports hair-based discrimination, which disproportionately affects people of color, particularly women, is evident in their data. They say Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work due to their hair.

Efforts to pass the CROWN Act at the state level have stalled, despite bipartisan support, but the movement appears to be gaining traction in Lexington. The CROWN Act moved out of committee this week and is set for a hearing before the full council.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.