VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Governor Ralph Northam’s signature on a bill against racial hair discrimination is bittersweet for the owner of Da Notty Roots. It’s a natural hair salon in Virginia Beach.
“How far we haven’t come, because I have a lot of clients coming from up north - they've been there,” said Denise Lawrence.
Virginia joins California, New York and New Jersey in the CROWN Act movement.
“The CROWN Act recognizes that Virginians are diverse,” said Dr. Khadijah Miller. She’s the chair of History and Interdisciplinary Studies at Norfolk State University.
Senate Bill 50 welcomes men and women to wear their curls, braids, twists and dreadlocks without being discriminated.
“It acknowledges that hair discrimination is a micro-aggression,” said Dr. Miller. “The CROWN Act speaks specifically to natural hair types and natural hairstyles.”
Specific hairstyles that have not always been accepted in the workplace or at school.
“People of African descent, African Americans, Afro-Caribbeans are the persons who are often discriminated against,” she adds.
Last year, a high school in Texas told a student he wouldn’t be able to walk at graduation if he didn’t cut his dreadlocks.
“What does his hair have to do with him graduating?" asked Tonya Riddick.
Another teen in New Jersey was forced to cut his dreadlocks during a wrestling match.
“It’s disheartening! I think people should be themselves. And there is more to you than your appearance,” said Steven Thomas.
Thomas works in education. He says he’s glad his place of work welcomes his braids.
“I’ve had conversations with kids about, 'Oh, I like your locs' or 'I like how your hair is braided,' or 'I like your shape up.' I think it’s a way to connect with them because they see themselves,” he adds.
Dr. Miller believes this new legislation can spark up some needed conversations.
“The bill provides an opportunity for dialogue and for us to realize that we have more similarities than differences.”