Proposed bill would protect African-Americans from hair discrimination

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Michele Watley, founder of Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet, testifies in favor of a bill before the Kansas Legislature to ban discrimination based on hairstyles in employment, housing and public accommodations during a committee hearing, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas. Her Kansas City, Missouri, group advocates for black women and says they often feel forced to straighten their natural hair to get jobs or keep them. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KOLR) — A Missouri lawmaker says far too many African Americans face discrimination because of their hair.

State Rep. Barbara Washington presented House Bill 23-56 before a House committee February 18 that would prohibit discrimination based on hair texture or any protective hairstyle in any educational institution that receives state funding.

Washington also cited recent media reports involving African-American students being disciplined because of their hairstyles.

“I think every child should be able to go to school and feel free to be themselves so that their minds can be open to learn and to be better people,” Rep. Washington said. “My grandson has natural hair and he has an afro, oftentimes in the streets of New York, in one of the most eclectic places in the world my daughter is asked, why don’t you comb his hair. I don’t want my grandson to enter preschool next fall and have to be subjected to anyone questioning him about the nature and status of his hair.”

Three witnesses testified in favor of Washington’s bill and no one testified against it.

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