RE: SB 250
Date of testimony: January 27, 2020
As one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations across the nation, YWCA has been at the forefront of the most pressing social movements in the Northeast Kansas area for more than 160 years – from voting rights to civil rights, from affordable housing to pay equity, from violence prevention to health care reform. The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. It is with these goals in mind that we want to share our support of SB 250 which would amend the definition of “race” in the Kansas act against discrimination to include traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles, including braids, locs, and twists.
YWCA believes that all women cannot be empowered unless we confront the issue of racism, and we recognize that women of color are disproportionately affected by discrimination in the workplace, classroom, healthcare, and other public spaces and situations. The CROWN Act seeks to address the discrimination predominantly affecting black women, but also black men, of all ages and backgrounds, in the workplace, educational settings, and other areas of public life. The CROWN Act is another step toward advancing the empowerment, equal opportunities, and economic advancement of black women and girls.
Black women are 80% more likely to change their natural hair to meet societal norms or expectations at work, and are 50% more likely to be sent home from work or school because of their natural hair. Because current societal understandings of professionalism often do not include natural hair, black women are often pressured to change their natural hairstyles, often at great financial expense.
Natural hair is inherent to racial identity, yet no protection exists against race-based hair discrimination. Passage of the CROWN Act would ensure that women of color can embrace their natural hairstyle without fear of exclusion or ramifications at the office, in the classroom, and in all places where they live, work, and play.
In the spirit of eliminating racism and empowering women, the YWCA urges your support of SB 250. We are proud to support this legislation and hope you will join us in seeking to create a world in which natural hair is embraced and individuals of color can thrive without fear of discrimination.
Chief Executive Officer, YWCA Northeast Kansas
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