Posted on March 19, 2022

Legislation Would Be One Step in Combating Hair Discrimination

Angelina Edwards, Columbia Missourian, March 6, 2022

Dinah West grew up in St. Louis and attended a predominantly white school district.

When it came to how West, who is Black, wore her hair, she always repeated one phrase to herself: “Keep it straight, keep it straight, keep it straight.”

When she didn’t, West, now an MU student, was bullied and called names.

Chrystal Graves-Yazici has heard stories like this too many times from her clients. The owner of a hair salon and an academy that teaches stylists how to be more inclusive of all hair types once spoke with a member of the state cosmetology board about introducing a curriculum that would include an option for beauticians to learn how to work with textured hair.

Not a requirement — just an option.

Currently, the board does not explicitly require training for textured or natural hair.

In Graves-Yazici’s mind, it just made sense to use some of the hours the board sets aside for hairstyling and haircutting to teach future stylists how to do all textured hair.

She said she was told she could propose the idea at one of the board’s public meetings, but she felt discouraged by the reaction. She said the board member told her the rest of the group would likely not be interested.

For Graves-Yazici, ending hair discrimination starts with stylists and diversity, and providing equity and inclusion training in beauty schools. For others, such as Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, the conversation can also begin with legislation. Dogan introduced HB 1743 to the Missouri House of Representatives.

The bill, based on a national initiative known as the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, would prohibit discrimination based on hair texture and protective hairstyles in educational institutes funded by the state. Protective styles, such as braids, twists and updos, are often worn in the Black community to protect natural hair and require less maintenance.

The bill was passed by the House this week and now heads to the Senate, where a similar bill had a hearing last week.

On the surface, hair discrimination may appear to be a trivial issue, but it can unfairly disrupt a child’s education and an individual’s workplace experience. Hair discrimination can range from individuals being told that their hairstyle is “unprofessional” for work to children being sent home from school or school-related activities such as sports due to their natural hair or protective hairstyle.

In less official capacities, individuals, including young children, might experience bullying or harassment for their hairstyle. That can make educational and work environments abusive and unwelcoming for people who choose to wear protective styles or their natural, curly hair. While hair discrimination tends to be targeted toward Black hair and styles, the issue can affect anyone who has curly, textured hair that doesn’t conform to Eurocentric beauty standards.

Kansas City’s CROWN Act prohibits employers from discriminating based on hair texture and having appearance policies that don’t allow hair textures or styles typically associated with race. The version of the CROWN Act moving through the Missouri House would not prohibit private employers from hair discrimination and only applies to educational institutes.

Dogan said there is too much hesitancy from employers to restrict appearance codes and ban hair discrimination statewide, and a bill encompassing both private employers and educational spaces would likely not pass.

He hopes that if the law is in place in schools, it will set an expectation that people with all hair textures should be treated equally and that hair discrimination is not culturally acceptable in Missouri.


While Dogan’s version of the CROWN Act may not cover employee discrimination, for many individuals, harassment based on hair texture and protective styles begins in schools.


Graves-Yazici started All Hair Academy in 2019 to combat hair discrimination and educate stylists about different textures. The company’s main focus is ensuring that beauty brands and stylists create educational spaces that are inclusive and don’t discriminate based on hair texture.

While hair discrimination can occur in the workplace and in educational spaces, Graves-Yazici believes a large portion takes place as individuals are looking for a salon.


Graves-Yazici said many of her clients have experienced what she calls “hair trauma.” She defines this as being treated as a burden by salon employees due to hair texture or being turned away from a salon because the employees don’t have the skillset to work with a certain hair texture.


Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, president of the activist non-profit organization Race Matters, Friends, is concerned about how the CROWN Act would be enforced if it were to become law. The CROWN Act would not penalize institutions or individuals who have engaged in hair discrimination, but it would allow victims to sue and take legal action.

Wilson-Kleekamp worries that legislation and resulting lawsuits are simply not enough to restore dignity to those who have already been harmed by hair discrimination, specifically young Black children who have been sent home from school or told they can’t participate in certain activities due to their hair.

“What does it do for them? How do they get their dignity back?” Wilson-Kleekamp asked. “Why aren’t these institutions taking responsibility for these ideologies that exist in their institutional cultures?”


Wilson-Kleekamp said hair discrimination reflects the racism in our society as well as sexism. She believes the legislation would not be able to address the intersectionality aspect of the problem.


West said that while the CROWN Act may be difficult to enforce, she finds it comforting that there would be an option for students to take legal action if they feel like they’re experiencing discrimination.