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Massachusetts governor signs bill banning discrimination based on natural hairstyles

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Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a new bill into law this week that outlaws discrimination against any individual based on their natural hairstyle.

The bill is one of several signed by governors in states across the United States that aim to end discrimination against people based on hairstyles that may be rooted in their cultures. Massachusetts’ Act Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Natural and Protective Hairstyles bans any type of discrimination in schools or workplaces based on natural or protective hairstyles.

The act, and several other CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) acts like it in other states in recent years seek to protect individuals who have been treated unfairly because of their hair. The bills include natural hair texture and styles including twists, braids, and Bantu knots. These styles are common among Black women, and have been the subject of several discrimination cases

The United States House introduced a federal version of the bill earlier this year, but it has not yet been up for a Senate vote. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D) debated the bill on the House floor, saying the bill is an important step toward “affirming the right for all of us to show up in the world as our full and authentic selves.”

The Massachusetts bill was spurred by the experience of twin sisters Mya and Deanna Cook, who received detention at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in 2015 because of their hairstyles. The twins have advocated for legislation that would end such discrimination in their state.

“I remember back to when we first got in trouble for this and going down to the principal’s office and being nervous because I knew I was going to get in trouble for my hair, and now no one’s going to have to go through that,” said Mya Cook this week.

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