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Advocates say natural hair discrimination bill will make Nebraska more inclusive and safe

The bill would add protections for natural hairstyles
Posted at 7:25 PM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 20:36:04-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska state senator, Terrell McKinney has introduced a bill into the legislature that would ban race-based discrimination in the workplace. The bill would add protections for hairstyles such as locs, braids and twists.

"What it sets out to accomplish is to create equity in the workplace and allow individuals to be their full selves and not have to assimilate or comply to rules that don’t look at the full scope of a persona and look at them for who they are and accept them for who they are," McKinney said.

Candi Jones, an activist, said it's important to pass this bill in order to allow Black women and men to be their authentic selves. Jones, who has herself experienced discrimination based on her hair styles, said she has had to alter herself to not lose opportunities.

"What we can’t navigate and get around are some of the things where I’ve been denied opportunities because I’ve chosen to wear natural hair or have chosen to wear braids or a style that is protective," Jones said. "A man told me during an interview that I was qualified and I was great and I had all the credentials but he spent the last five minutes of that interview telling me how the natural hair I was wearing at that time could possibly prohibit me from moving though the organization."

Current protections for natural hair do not include certain hair styles.

"Right now federal courts for nearly 40 years have declared that discrimination on the basis of afros that’s race discrimination, but if you loc, braid or twist the afro, then magically, it’s no longer about race and therefore employers are free to regulate and discriminate," Wendy Greene, Professor of Law and founder of #FreeTheHair said.

Advocates say protective hair styles such as locs, braids and twists are part of their racial identity.

The bill was introduced last session by Senator Michaela Cavanaugh, but was vetoed by Governor Ricketts. Those who worked on the new bill made sure to address some of the concerns Ricketts had, such as the feedback that they were trying to redefine race.

"We made sure to clarify race which is very different than redefining. we’re clarifying race to include characteristics that are associated with race like natural hair texture and protective styles. We also address some of the safety concerns that the governor mentioned," Ashlei Spivey, Director of I Be Black Girl, said.

Advocates say this bill, if passed, will make Nebraska a more inclusive state.

"It’s much bigger than hair, it’s about our identity, it’s about authenticity its about our ability to just show up without any kind of barriers," Jones said.