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A legal battle in Texas over a Black student’s hairstyle has renewed calls for a national CROWN Act. Here is what that means

The family of a Black high school student who has been suspended for weeks over his locs hairstyle have sued Texas state leaders, requesting the governor take action to protect the 17-year-old from hair discrimination.

Black natural hair advocates say the legal battle has renewed focus on the history of hair discrimination in the US and the need to pass a national CROWN Act.

The CROWN Act and similar laws protect against race-based hair discrimination by making it illegal to deny employment and educational opportunities based on natural hair texture and protective hairstyles.

The legislation, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” (CROWN) has been championed by natural hair advocates who argue Black Americans have faced discrimination in the workplace and in schools because of their hair.

Although the language of each law differs across the states that draft them, CROWN Act laws generally prohibit discrimination based on hairstyles that are commonly associated with a particular race or culture, including Black hairstyles like locs, braids or Bantu knots.

These styles are known as “protective hairstyles” because they help maintain the health of the hair by tucking strands to prevent additional stress and breakage, which promotes hair to grow. The styles also protect the hair from the overuse of heat from styling tools such as flat irons.

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Western Center Roundup – May 2022

Light in the dark: acknowledging pain as we celebrate AAPI heritage.


This month was hard. Violence at every corner of the country – Buffalo, Orange County, Uvalde, at the store, at school, at church. The words to express the sadness and loss are few, but our Interim Director of Development, April Walker, penned a poignant expression of anguish after what happened in Buffalo, worth a close read. We do not have a call to action for you – there are too many that need to be taken. The guns, the hate, the racism, the unacknowledged history, the isolation, the anger, the normalization of violence, the adherence to a pathological status quo – there is so much to overcome. Right now we remember the beautiful humans lost in New York, in California, babies in Texas. We grieve and we yearn for an awakening that can heal this country and our humanity.

We also acknowledge the simultaneous impact of the ongoing pandemic, which continues to harm communities of color more than others. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released a report this month to “document the equity-driven strategies used to respond to the needs of communities most impacted by COVID-19… strategies implemented in service of LA County’s Black/African American residents, one of several racial/ethnic groups who have experienced disproportionate rates of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths throughout the pandemic.” We hope such continued, targeted care continues for people in the communities most impacted by this country’s deeply imbedded inequality.

As we mourn alongside the loved ones who lost John Cheng, killed protecting his community from yet another shooter motivated by irrational beliefs, we lift him up as part of the incredible tradition of Asian and Pacific Islanders who fought, toiled, lived and died to create a place for themselves and countless others in this country and state. This Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we celebrate the incalculable and diverse contributions, wisdom, language, and cultures of AAPI communities in our shared histories and future.

In the first in a pair of blog posts for AAPI Heritage Month, Western Center senior attorney Helen Tran reflects on the legacy and future of Cantonese, her first language, and explores how government policies influence both its preservation and disappearance. In the second post, Helen walks us through a bit of Cantonese history in the U.S. and its impact on landmark civil rights victories. And in exciting 2022 history in the making, Western Center senior attorney Nisha Vyas was recognized by the LA County Bar Association as an AAPI Heritage Month honoree for her advocacy rooted in the belief that everyone should have access to safe and affordable housing of their choice.

Finally, for something lighter for these heavy times, we suggest RISE: A Pop History of Asian America from the Nineties to Now. “RISE is a love letter to and for Asian Americans–a vivid scrapbook of voices, emotions, and memories from an era in which Asian American culture was forged and transformed, and a way to preserve both the headlines and the intimate conversations that have shaped the community into what it is today.”


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