This post is inspired by advocacy for the passage of the C.R.O.W.N. Act in Lawrence Kansas.
The CROWN Act aims to create greater access, opportunity and inclusion for Black people by expanding laws to close loopholes that allow racial discrimination based on hairstyles and natural hair textures. By clarifying these protections, we can create access to employment, seize opportunities to grow our workforce, and create an inclusive economy for Black people, people of color and everyone in Lawrence Kansas. If passed, the City of Lawrence will be the first in the state to pass CROWN Act legislation.
The fact is, I’m a white woman. I have never known what it’s like to be penalized, excluded, or otherwise discriminated against because of other people’s attitudes about my hair.
So no matter how much compassion I may have, I will never truly understand the impact of these practices…the rush of adrenaline, the pain of disconnection, the confusion of being rejected when I was supposed to have been supported and protected.
Believe Black people when they speak about their lived experiences of being Black in America.
So, what I can do as a white woman is something truly revolutionary – something that our society does not teach us to do: Believe Black people when they speak about their lived experiences of being Black in America.
When Black people speak of race-based discrimination that takes the form of culturally-specific hairstyles and natural textures, I believe them.
When Black people speak of being humiliated, excluded, and obstructed, I believe them.
When Black people speak of attempts to obliterate their culture through assimilation and shaming that takes the form of centering white styles, textures, and sensibilities, I believe them.
When Black people call out the fact that “oneness” and “unity” implemented by white people takes the tactical form of erasure, I believe them.
When Black people that they wear their natural hair as a matter of cultural pride, I believe them.
When Black people speak of the importance of culturally-specific salons and training to ensure cultural survival and longevity, I believe them.
When Black people step out with hairstyles honoring 4C hair, honoring their ancestors, honoring their own standards of beauty, professionalism, and norms, I believe them.
Because this I also know: we white folks are socialized to use Black bodies “for pleasure or for profit,” as author Catrice Jackson says. And if we can’t do that, such as with locs, Afros, twist-outs, cornrows, Bantu knots and more, we attempt to destroy them.
We must not be complicit in perpetuating generations of oppression, erasure, and marginalization. We must center and uplift every culture represented in Lawrence, and the CROWN Act is a necessary step in making that happen.
It is unconscionable to me that existing laws actually allow race-based hair discrimination and that people in positions of privilege take advantage of the current gap in the law which allows people to get away with perpetuating systemic oppression. Lawrence needs to do the necessary work to honor its residents and maintain and improve its reputation as a diverse and inclusive city.
Jamie Campbell is a finance and accounting expert who serves as the CFO for Tier One Account Services. Jamie credits the teachings of Catrice Jackson, Ally Henny, Evita Ellis, the Black women leaders of Real Talk: WOC & Allies for Racial Justice and Anti-Oppression, and other Black women leading the way to liberation for us all, for inspiring this blog post.