Julie Kushner

State Senator

Julie Kushner

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Working Together for Progress

March 10, 2021

Senator Kushner Joins Celebration As Governor Signs C.R.O.W.N. Act into Effect

Today, State Senator Julie Kushner (D-Danbury) joined the celebration of her colleagues at the State Capitol as advocates and legislators gathered for the ceremonial signing of the C.R.O.W.N. Act by Governor Ned Lamont. As Senate Chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee, Sen. Kushner helped guide the legislation through the legislative process, which bans discrimination against individuals for wearing their natural hairstyles, and today allowed her fellow supporters to discuss its importance and what its passage means for workers today, especially Black and Brown people.

“Today is a day of celebration, liberation and freedom,” said State Representative Robyn Porter (D-New Haven), House Chair of the Labor Committee. “It represents our ability to come together and work collectively to create liberating spaces for everyone. Black and Brown people, men women and children, will have the opportunity and the spaces to show up authentically, who we are, and not be defined by how we wear our hair. My hair is me, and depending on how I feel, it’s how I show up. I may wear an Afro, I may put it in some twists, I may let it dry and get curly, or I might cut it all off. Sometimes, the crown is just a crown. I’m so proud to be here with all my supporters as Connecticut is the first state in 2021 to do this and the eighth to join a national coalition.”

“I felt so honored to be a part of this process. It is rare that you get to participate in such an intimate way on an issue of racial equity when you’re a white person,” said Sen. Kushner. “To be an anti-racist, we have to begin to examine every aspect of our lives and of society to root out systemic racism, and you need a partner to do that. I have a great partner in Rep. Porter. I brought out the bill in the Senate, but I didn’t speak much but to say we must be intentional in our work and look at everything through a racial equity lens. When we came to the Senate, it was my colleagues like Senator McCrory, Senator Winfield, Senator Cabrera and Senator Moore who brought to light the lived experience that stresses and underscores the importance of the C.R.O.W.N. Act.”

“As the first African-American Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families,” said Vannessa Dorantes, the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, “I am also a Black woman who chooses to wear my hair in its natural state, ‘natural’ being defined as having no chemical processes to alter my hair’s texture. This act represents the opportunity to share my personal experiences and give voice to the implicit bias associated with this issue. Implicit bias refers to bias that is subconscious and refers to judgments made in an instant. Explicit bias is more deliberate. This is an issue that’s beyond the workplace. To remove discriminatory expectations within the workplace is an important step toward identity. The significant factor in considering this type of discrimination is the impact to Black children and young people. As we all know, identity development is an important factor in adolescent life stages. The issue of natural hair, and the rejection, that results in Black children feeling ostracized, bullied, disciplined unjustly or forced to acquiesce and assimilate to handbook rules banning natural hairstyles. The child on the other side of that discriminatory practice is left with feelings of humiliation, sadness, anger, frustration and confusion. I wish I could tell those children they do not have to feel concerned about negative reactions, that they are beautiful and those reactions are isolated and should not occur. I have a unique experience related to this act as I am a graduate of the state’s technical schools where I studied trade requirements, such as for the state board exam for hairdressing, I taught cultural competency courses at one of our state universities, and I co-chaired the Women and Children’s Health and Safety Subcommittee of the Council of Women and Girls. I recognize it’s important to lift up these issues. A common form of overt racism is the suppression of a person’s right to establish standards conflicting with a person’s cultural or ethnic identity. A person’s wardrobe, language and hairstyle are reflections of that person’s heritage and pride, and should be revered in a country and state as diverse as ours.”

The C.R.O.W. N. Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnic hairstyles historically associated with race, specifically adding two key qualifiers to current statutes to expand the definition of “race” in the state’s antidiscrimination laws. They will now be inclusive of traits like hair texture and protective hairstyles, which can include braids, locs and twists, that are historically associated with an individual’s race, and therefore individuals cannot face punishment or different treatment for having them.

This legislation comes at an important time, as currently, up to 80 percent of Black women have said they feel they need to change their natural hair color to fit in at their workplace. Further studies show Black women are more than three times as likely to have their hairstyles called “unprofessional” compared to white women, and that Black women are also 50 percent more likely than white women to have been sent home from the workforce solely due to their hair. This will have multiple positive impacts, not only ending discrimination against people of color based on hair but affirming that Black and Brown people do not need to change aspects of their own natural appearance to “fit in,” further removing pressures of discrimination.