Gordon-Booth Spearheads Anti-Hairstyle Discrimination Effort

Feb 24, 2020
Originally published on February 22, 2020 2:18 pm

State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) is sponsoring legislation that would ban discrimination based on someone's hairstyle.

The Crown Act would amend the Illinois Human Rights Act to ban discrimination against hairstyles such as locks. Gordon-Booth said the bill would help black and Latinx women disproportionately impacted by hairstyle discrimination in the workplace and their daily lives. 

She said the bill likely won't come up for a vote until May. That's because she's planning a statewide media campaign called "The Politics of Hair" to build momentum.

"Policy doesn't necessarily change minds. You really have to touch someone's mind and their heart to really make a cultural change. And that's what we're really hoping for with this," she said. 

Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx will participate, and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has also been asked. But the main goal is to gather the stories of average people.

"The real goal for me is to get the real stories of just everyday women. Not people with big titles and the like, but folks that have real stories that may not have ever had a voice," Gordon-Booth said. "To give them that voice in this space is something that I'm really looking forward to doing."

The bill also has personal meaning for Gordon-Booth. Her mother altered her natural hairstyle to a perm to help advance her career. Her blood pressure medication affected her scalp, so she stopped taking it to prepare for her next perm appointment shortly before her death.

Gordon-Booth plans photo shoots in Peoria, Springfield, and Chicago in the coming months.

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