Federal Hair Discrimination Bill Passes US House, But Fate Uncertain in the Senate

U.S. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey sponsored the federal version of the CROWN Act, a bill barring discrimination against someone based on their hairstyle. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

By Billy Ball

March 18, 2022

Remember the Durham teen who had to cut her braids mid-baseball game? Today’s CROWN Act vote moved to bar such racially biased rules. 

“I felt dehumanized,” Nicole Pyles, a 16-year-old at Durham’s Hillside High, said last April. The Black North Carolina student-athlete had been forced to cut her hair to continue playing in a school softball game. 

Pyles’ hair, which she’d worn beaded in braids, was interpreted as breaking rules set by the NC High School Athletic Association. 

A vote Friday by the US House of Representatives brings us a step closer to ending this type of racial discrimination. Federal lawmakers passed the CROWN Act, banning discrimination in schools, the workplace, and housing based on a person’s hairstyle. 

It’s a problem that particularly impacts Black people, when employers, landlords, and school officials write rules that bar styles like afros or braids that are based on Black hair textures. 

North Carolina leaders like state Sen. Natalie Murdock, a Democrat from Durham, have been outspoken in support of passing nondiscrimination measures like the CROWN Act, co-sponsoring a version in the state legislature.  

Murdock’s bill was funneled into a powerful Senate rules committee this month where, barring unlikely support from powerful GOP leaders, it won’t come to a vote at all. That’s how the state Senate works. 

Republicans in DC have been resistant to passing the antidiscrimination bill as well. All but one of NC’s GOP representatives in the House opposed the federal bill Friday. Rep. Ted Budd didn’t vote. 

It’s unclear how the federal CROWN Act will fare in the closely divided US Senate, which would have to pass the bill before it goes to President Joe Biden’s desk.


  • Billy Ball

    Billy Ball is Cardinal & Pine's senior community editor. He’s covered local, state and national politics, government, education, criminal justice, the environment and immigration in North Carolina for almost two decades, winning state, regional and national awards for his reporting and commentary.

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