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A public discussion about the matter is set for Tuesday in Cincinnati City Council’s  Arts, Youth & Inclusion committee, followed by a vote of council expected next Wednesday, Oct 9. If it passes the full nine-member councilCincinnati will be the first city in the country to have such an anti-discrimination policy, although some states have already done so.

“People of color have been forced to regard natural and popular hairstyles — such as Bantu knots, box braids, cornrows, dreadlocks, or Afros — as liabilities in the workplace, housing, and public accommodations. Black women are especially penalized because they may not conform to what some define as the traditional notions of beauty,” Seelbach said.

He pointed to stories of natural hair discrimination that have gone viral, like Andrew Johnson, a New Jersey student-wrestler who was forced to cut his hair.

Kentucky State Rep. Attica Scott, of Louisville in 2016 made national headlines after she and her daughter called out her daughter’s school dress code for banning students from wearing braids and cornrows.

“By adding natural hair to our City’s non-discrimination policy, we can ensure that no Cincinnatian will be marginalized or discriminated against simply because of their hairstyle or texture,” Seelbach said.

Cincinnati isn’t alone. In 2019 California and New York banned discrimination based on natural hairstyles, Kentucky, led by Scott, is considering a similar law.

And there is a movement too on the local education level with school boards across the nation making sure dress codes aren’t discriminatory. For instance, in Seattle, the school district policy was changed this year to say, “Students should be able to dress and style their hair for school in a manner that expresses their individuality without fear of unnecessary discipline or body shaming…”

Federal law does not protect race-based hair discrimination, which is why state and local laws are important, according to The Crown (Creating a Respectful and open world for Natural Hair) Coalition, which was started by the Dove beauty company to end hair discrimination.

Its website says: “While all women experience pressure to conform to certain standards of appearance, black women are unfairly impacted… It’s not OK.” Dove has partnered with the National Urban League, Color of Change and the Western Center on Law and Poverty in the effort.

The proposed Cincinnati ordinance says natural hair is commonly associated with black people and is part of a person’s cultural identity. Grooming policies against natural hair have the potential to stigmatize and shame people.

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