Feeling Proud and Protected Thanks to the CROWN Act

by Adriene Thornton, TRUST Associate Board

Imagine being a new, young nurse preparing for your first professional job and being told your braids are not in compliance with the organization’s dress code, and you must remove them before your first day of work. I cannot explain the depth of the hurt I felt. The impact extended into my over 30-year career as a nurse, with me questioning how I look, dress and appear to others at work. I felt like I had to adapt to a facade that was not natural to me, resulting in various efforts to belong and be accepted. Not to mention my hair was thinned out and permanently damaged from using perms.

On January 11, 2023, Senator Bobby Champion successfully introduced the CROWN Act in the Minnesota legislature. After much debate about the exclusion of beards from the bill, it passed 45 to 19. That was quickly followed by Governor Walz signing the bill into law on February 6, 2023. Minnesota joins 19 other states in making it illegal to discriminate against someone in the workplace, schools, athletics or any arena because of their hair.

The CROWN Act is Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The CROWN Act coalition, founded by Dove, the National Urban League, Color of Change, and the Western Center on Law & Poverty, seeks to eliminate hair discrimination and the psychological impact on Black girls and women. The JOY Collective (2019) noted that Black women are 30% more likely to be made aware of a formal workplace appearance policy and 1.5 times more likely to be sent home due to discrimination related to their hair. Unfortunately, the discrimination against Black women starts when they are young. Forty-five percent of Black girls aged 5-18 report experiencing hair bias and discrimination in the school environment. Fifty-three percent of Black mothers whose daughters experienced hair discrimination say their daughters have experienced race-based hair discrimination as early as five years old, according to The JOY Collective (2019). And 100% of Black elementary school girls in majority white schools who report experiencing hair discrimination state it occurred by 10 years old.

Today is different. Today I feel different. I feel seen and heard. Most importantly, I feel PROTECTED. I feel PROUD to wear my hair. The work is just beginning, but we will celebrate the small wins until we reach the ultimate victory!

Adriene Thornton serves on the TRUST Associate Board and its Diversity, Inclusion, Equity and Access (IDEA) Committee. She has been a registered nurse for more than 30 years and currently is the Manager of Health Equity at Children’s Minnesota.