DALLAS — To be your true self is to be empowered. And that is why supporters of legislation that bans hair discrimination are vowing to continue their fight after last month’s setback in the U.S. House and last year’s disappointment in the Texas Legislature.
“That’s the only way we're going to move forward if we can come to the table as who we truly are authentically and present ourselves in the ways we feel good and comfortable,” state Rep. Rhetta Bowers said on the most recent episode of Y’all-itics.
Bowers is the author behind HB 392, the Texas CROWN Act, which would have banned discrimination on the basis of hair texture or style. CROWN stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. While the bill made it out of committee, and Bowers proudly touts that it had bipartisan support, the legislation ran out of time and was never considered by the full House.
Undeterred, the Democrat from Garland says she will introduce the legislation again during the 88th legislative session next year. And she says she’s learned some lessons that will help.
Listen to this week's episode of Y'all-itics here:
“I want to get it filed early this time so that hopefully we can get a lower bill number, get a hearing sooner and realize that it definitely is an education lesson. It’s a lesson for a lot of us. People are unaware,” she said. “A fourth of the House is going to be new members. So I’m going to have to start all over again.”
Bowers says she’s still constantly getting calls from folks who have their own stories of hair discrimination. And the Democrat from North Texas even has her own examples.
“My colleagues look at me daily with my hair straightened. But if I wet my hair, it's going to go right into its curly, natural state and I too would be discriminated against or looked at differently in their eyes,” Bowers said. “And when I said that laying the bill out and got back on the floor to shop it around and make sure I could get it voted out, many of my colleagues just said I had no idea. I had no idea. I didn't even know we needed something like this.”
And sharing the stories of hair discrimination is a big part of educating folks about the problem. There were plenty of testimonials during the last legislative session. And Rep. Bowers expects there to be plenty of new stories next year.
“Black women, for sure, when getting ready for a job interview have to decide do I wear my hair blown out? Do I straighten my hair? Do I take my braids down so that I don't have this look for the job interview? It is a journey that I think we've all been on and it's starting to happen at a younger age,” she said.
As for the national bill that would have banned hair discrimination, it failed in the U.S. House on the last day of Black History Month, with 235 votes for and 188 votes against … all of those "no" votes by Republicans. And that is one reason why Bowers is so proud of the bipartisan approach she helped foster here in Texas.
And she won’t be waiting until the next session starts on Jan. 10, 2023 to get to work.
“We will pick it up again and we'll file it as early as when early filing begins in November,” Bowers said. “And it will definitely be a bill that looks at education, but not only education, it has to deal with the workplace as well. And we’ll have to have that housing component in there so that across the board, black women, men and children are not being discriminated against.”
WFAA’s Tashara Parker also joined Jason Whitely in this episode of Y’all-itics. She’s been shining a bright light on this issue for years, primarily through her Rooted series. And Tashara even testified before lawmakers in Austin, providing perspective on the issue. Listen to the latest episode of Y’all-itics to hear what she thinks needs to happen next in this ongoing battle to end hair discrimination.