About 38 percent of children and families who come to the hospital are black, according to Children’s Minnesota.
ST PAUL, Minn. – Less than half of all states have enacted the CROWN Act, but Minnesota could be next.
If the CROWN Act makes it through the Senate and onto the governor’s desk, the Minnesota Human Rights Act would be updated to emphasize that discrimination based on a person’s hair specifically qualifies as racial discrimination.
The House of Representatives has now passed this three times, but the Senate has never put it to a vote. Now that Democrats are taking control and there is a more diverse composition of lawmakers, the Senate will vote on the CROWN Act for the first time on Thursday.
The CROWN Act would basically add a layer of protection against hassle at work over a hairstyle. But it’s not just about the workplace. This would also affect children. Knowing this, Children’s Minnesota takes a stand in support of the CROWN Act.
James Burroughs, senior vice president for government and community relations, says about 38 percent of children and families who come to Children’s are black.
“They have a variety of different hairstyles,” said Burroughs, who is also the hospital’s chief equity and inclusion officer.
He says that a few years ago, Children’s changed an outdated recommendation about hair care for patients during surgery.
“If your braids weren’t taken out, we were like, ‘Okay, we might have to cut them out,'” he said. “We thought this would be the thing, but we found out later that the braids didn’t get in the way of a proper surgery. It was just one thing that we had done… So we studied it, we talked to patients and families. We got the right products and now we can consider them and make sure they are incorporated into the way we conduct surgeries.”
Children’s is not only looking inward at its policies, but also at state law as Minnesota considers the CROWN Act.
“CROWN stands for creating a respectful and open world for natural hair,” said State Rep. Esther Agbaje, (DFL) D-59B before the House of Representatives passed the law two weeks ago. “The purpose of the bill is to allow more people to express themselves as their authentic selves at school or in the workplace without fear or repercussions because of their hair.”
“We know that’s already covered, but I think today we see it a little bit differently,” House Minority Chairwoman Lisa Demuth, (R)D-13A, also said at the time.
Critics have said that the CROWN Act is not necessary because current law already protects against racial discrimination. On the Wednesday before the vote, Burroughs explained why Children’s is supported.
“Before we decided to support the bill, we saw some research that says so [over] 50 percent of mothers with daughters around the 5-year mark, 5 years old, would be discriminated against by their daughters because of their hairstyle, and that’s sad,” he said. “For the first time ever, there are three black women in Minnesota who are in the Senate now…Now is the right time…It’s about the culture you want to instill in people.”
Children’s is one of 50 members of the Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity, which also wants the CROWN Act passed. General Mills, Target and US Bank are some of the other members.
“It’s valuable in the workplace and it’s valuable when kids are growing up,” said CEO Tiffani Daniels. “We’re standing at a truly historic moment and Minnesota has an opportunity to lead in the nation.”
Senate President Bobby Joe Champion, the first black Senate President, is pushing for the Crown Act and a bill that would make June 16 a state holiday. Voting on both will take place during a sitting beginning at 11 a.m. Thursday.
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