The NAACP Image Awards is a celebration of Black excellence. This year’s ceremony features an array of categories with Outstanding News/Information being one of the most competitive. Between the 2022 Election Night coverage and Michelle Obama Special, this category also includes “The Hair Tales”, which on the surface may not appear newsworthy.
Executive produced by Oprah Winfrey, Tracee Ellis Ross, and Michaela Angela Davis, “The Hair Tales” explores the lives of six successful Black women through their hair journey.
In the docuseries, Ayana Byrd, co-author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America describes incidents of Black women being fired for not straightening their hair. Incidents of Black students being punished for their hairstyles is also highlighted.
In episode 6, singer and actress Chloe Bailey shares her experience with hair discrimination as a young child in the industry stating:
“We shouldn’t have anybody, especially children, feel that they have to change themselves to be accepted.”
The CROWN Act
It is this type of discrimination that motivated the first CROWN (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) Act (SB 188). Adopted in July 2019, the California CROWN Act was the first state level legislation prohibiting such discrimination. It later sparked the passage of similar statutes in 20 states and 30 cities.
On March 19, 2021, the CROWN Act was introduced in the United States Congress by Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ). The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2022, known as the CROWN Act of 2022, intended to ban:
“discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture by clarifying that such discrimination is illegal under existing federal law”
The CROWN Act of 2022 was passed in The House of Representatives by 235–189 on March 18, 2022. When Senator Cory Booker introduced the CROWN Act in the Senate, it was met with unanimous approval from the upper chamber, but a group of Senators led by Senator Rand Paul blocked the effort. In response, Representative Ayanna Pressley, featured in “The Hair Tales” episode 3 tweeted, “Race-based hair discrimination has no place in our society.”
To date, there are no federal protections against this.
Black is beautiful and so is our hair.
For anyone who has ever faced hair discrimination or punishment for showing up exactly as you are, the #CROWNAct is for you.
TY to my sisters-in-service & the movement for making the House passage of the CROWN Act possible. pic.twitter.com/iknTUDjFr7
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) March 18, 2022
54th NAACP Image Awards
In “The Hair Tales” episode 1, Tracee Ellis Ross says to Oprah Winfrey, “It can feel like it’s just a conversation about hair. But it’s not.” To which Oprah responds, “It never is.”
No matter the outcome at the 54th NAACP Image Awards, “The Hair Tales” gives voice to a form of discrimination that often exists below the radar. View all six episodes on Hulu. Check out the NAACP Image Awards Saturday February 25th on BET at 8pET/7pCT.