As I reflect on the recent passing of the CROWN Act in Texas, a wave of emotions washes over me. This monumental event marks a significant step forward in the fight against discrimination based on hair texture and hairstyles, particularly those associated with African American communities.
I first experienced hair discrimination in middle school. Summer was almost here and I had my hair braided in an intricate updo that I was excited to show off at school. As I walked through the hallways, I couldn’t help but notice the admiring glances from some of my classmates. However, before the end of 1st period, I was pulled out of my class, by an administrator who took a few looks at me, examined my hair, and walked me to the front office where the Principle and more administrators looked me over before explaining to me that my hairstyle was a distraction and went against the dress code. I was to be sent home and was instructed to return when it was taken care of. I cried the entire way home, what had I done wrong to be sent away from school? What was wrong with me? What was wrong with my hair? This experience marked the beginning of my awareness of hair discrimination and the unjust expectations placed on people with different hair textures and styles. Unfortunately, this was not the last time I experienced this form of discrimination and one that many just like me have experienced.
This core memory guided and inspired me as I lead the Measure team in leveraging the invaluable data and work accomplished by the CROWN Coalition on a national level. By translating these efforts into actionable policy within the Austin metropolitan area, we successfully pushed for our systems to be more inclusive and equitable for everyone through the passing of the Austin CROWN ACT in 2022 and the CROWN ACT resolution being passed in Pflugerville in April 2023.
The passing of the CROWN Act in Texas sends a strong message that discrimination has no place in our society. It is a testament to the tireless efforts of activists, lawmakers, and community members who have advocated for change and raised awareness about the importance of embracing diversity and inclusivity.
As we celebrate this victory, it is essential to recognize that the journey toward true equality is far from over. While the CROWN Act is now law in Texas, there are still many states where similar legislation has not yet been enacted. The fight against structural racism and discrimination must continue, and we must all do our part to ensure that everyone, regardless of their hair texture or style, can live without fear of judgment or exclusion. Having the opportunity to work alongside Representative Bowers, Senator Miles, Adjoa B. Asamoah, and their teams on strategy throughout this past legislative session was an honor and a privilege for me.
Angel Carroll is the Director of Community Engagement & Partnerships for Measure Austin.