PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Mayor Bill Peduto submitted a bill before council members Tuesday. It’s called the CROWN Act, and the bill looks to end hairstyle discrimination.
Stacy Gales, who owns Superior Styles, a natural Black hair salon on the North Side, told KDKA this legislation could not come soon enough saying, “Black lives matter. So does Black hair.”
According to studies, about 80 percent of Black women feel they need to alter their hair to fit in.
Gales said many use hair extensions and harsh chemicals to permanently straighten their hair, risking irreversible damage just to fit in.
That is why she encourages her clients to go natural.
“It’s a problem. It’s a problem,” said Gales.
The CROWN act stands for Creating A Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair — and it’s designed to offer protections in employment, housing, education and public accommodations.
“It’s unfortunate that in this time that we are still dealing with this form of discrimination. Unfortunately it happens more often than people think,” Gwen’s Girls CEO Kathi Elliott said. Gwen’s Girls works with girls and young adults and promotes social justice.
Gales told KDKA hair discrimination is very real and said when some people talk about natural hair, “you’ll hear, ‘why is her hair like that? Why is he wearing his hair like that? That looks like it stinks.’”
Mayor Bill Peduto’s office says Black individuals’ hair is worn in variety of hairstyles which hold cultural and personal significance, but he says modern ideas of professionalism tend to reflect white hairstyles.
WATCH: KDKA’s Chris Hoffman reports
The mayor’s office found that Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from work for their hair, and 3.4 times more likely to be considered unprofessional.
“I choose to have my hair like this and you choose to have your hairstyle the way you choose to wear you hair. That’s the way it should be in the United States of America,” Elliott said over Zoom.
This legislations would allow for anyone who is a victim of hairstyle discrimination to report it to the city’s Commission on Human Relations. That commission will be releasing guidance to landlords, employers and business owners to understand this ordinance.
“It’s a step forward. There’s so many other forms of discrimination that still need to be addressed, but this is something tangible that we know that happens on a regular basis,” Elliott said.
Similar legislation has been passed in other states and is being looked at in Philadelphia.
Gales hopes the new bill will inspire people to embrace their crown.
“You are who you are. Be yourself. Don’t let society make you something that you’re not,” the salon owner said.
These complaints can be reported to the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations.
Local leaders are also calling on schools and businesses to independently adopt similar policy to ensure Black people are judged on experience not appearance.