Cincinnati Council Passes Ban on Discriminating Against Natural Hair, but Not Without Dissenter

Cincinnati is the latest city to ban discriminating against people with natural hair.

Following in the footsteps of New York City, a 7-1 Cincinnati City Council vote Wednesday made the protection applicable in the Ohio city, according to USA Today.

Related: The CROWN Act: California Bill Aims to Protect Black Folks from Hair Discrimination

The ordinance’s sponsor, Councilman Chris Seelbach, said during the meeting the change is “one more step along an important path toward leveling the playing field in the community.”

“I wish this was an unanimous vote,” Seelbach said. “It’s disappointing that it’s not, but I’m glad it’s going to pass with seven votes.”

Council-member Amy Murray, a white woman, gave the lone “no” vote, having argued the issue already falls under both federal and state discrimination laws. 

When she made the argument, Seelbach told her:

“With all due respect, this is extreme privilege and a slap in the face to African-American women, whose stories I have heard and are degrading and horrible.”

Under the new ordinance, if discrimination is proven, a fine of $100 per day up to $1,000 could be levied until the discriminatory practice ends, according to several news outlets

Related: Your Afro Is Safe In the Empire State: New York Becomes Latest State to Ban Hair Discrimination

The council heard remarks from several people who reported they had been discriminated against because of their hair. That included a former city firefighter who had earlier wanted to keep his hair long for ritual purposes but instead had to cut it.

Brittani Gray, owner of the hair salon Hair Kitchen, said Wednesday before she was a hair stylist, she was an intervention specialist for Cincinnati Public Schools.

Although she currently wears a tapered cut, she said she had “big curly hair” when she was interviewing for the position and an employee told her “you need to straighten your hair.”

“I became very distraught with the news,” she said.

Jobs were slim in the city at the time, so Gray, a new graduate, decided to start straightening her hair.

“I got the job, but I felt like my self-worth was stolen,” she said.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman told the council his wife died earlier this year and before she did, the couple talked at length about how he would do their daughter’s hair, according to USA Today.

“Now, as a single father, there is no activity we do not plan around her hair care,” Smitherman said. “What I want for her is that where she works, whatever she does, that she can wear her hair however she wants.”

Former Cincinnati City Councilwoman Alicia Reece spoke during public comment. She praised Seelbach for proposing the ordinance.

“This is a bold step,” Reece said. “It’s also a change in time, where women of color are saying, ‘Hey, we can wear our hair and honor culture and still be in the workplace.’ It’s always been a whisper, but now women are speaking up. We’re not going to let anyone tell us how we can wear our hair.”

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