Cincinnati City Council approves the Natural Hair Anti-Discrimination Act

Cincinnati City Council voted 7-1 on Wednesday that it is illegal to discriminate against people with natural hair.

Women came together during the public commentary session on Wednesday before the 2pm city council meeting to share stories about the discrimination they have faced for wearing their hair.

The regulation’s sponsor, Councilor Chris Seelbach, called it “another step on an important path to improve the playing field in the community”.

And he took an exception to Amy Murray’s lone no-vote from the Republican councilor. (Alderman Jeff Pastor was absent.)

Murray said she believes the protection of natural hair is already under federal Discrimination Law, making it illegal to treat or harass a person unfavorably because of their race or skin color. Passing a city law would be superfluous, she argued.

Seelbach first asked Cincinnati City attorney Paula Boggs Muething if this was true. Boggs Muething said that anyone who could make a claim based on hair texture and type needed proof. This law makes it easier to prove discrimination based on wearing natural hair.

And then Seelbach turned to Murray and said, “With all due respect, this is an extreme privilege and a slap in the face for African American women whose stories I have heard and who are humiliating and terrible.”

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Cincinnati is the second city in the country, after New York City, to pass such a law. (A story published earlier this week made no mention of New York City being the first city to pass an anti-discrimination law based on natural hair.) California and New York have that law, and Kentucky is considering one.

Seelbach found support from all the other members there.

Councilor Tamaya Dennard said she doesn’t understand why Murray doesn’t just want to make sure “People like me. People like Kamara (Douglas who works in Seelbach’s office) and Jasmine (Coaston who works in PG Sittenfeld’s office) have protection. “

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, whose wife Pamela had died earlier this year, said they had long conversations about how he would look after their young daughter’s hair.

“Now, as a single father, there are no activities that we don’t plan for her hair care,” said Smitherman. “What I want for her is that wherever she works, whatever she does, she can wear her hair however she wants.”

Wendell Young City Councilor said there are many things that require additional legal protection, pointing out voting and civil rights.

“I wish I lived long enough that I didn’t have to pass a rule or a law,” said Young. “But we’re not there yet. This is a real problem for a lot of women. I’m glad we are.”

Under the proposal, it would be illegal to discriminate against natural hair and natural hairstyles related to race. The law said the city would investigate complaints.

If there was a likely reason a hearing would be held. If discrimination is found, a fine of $ 100 per day up to a total of $ 1,000 may be imposed until the practice ends.

Former Cincinnati councilor Alicia Reece was elected in 1999 and spoke during a public comment. She said if she did join the council she would have her hair in pigtails in what she described as “nasty” emails about her appearance. “Someone said I was the least attractive councilor ever. It was shocking.”

Reece praised Seelbach for proposing the regulation that would add natural hair to the city’s anti-discrimination policy.

“This is a bold move,” said Reece. “It’s also a shift in the age of women with color saying, ‘Hey, we can wear our hair and honor the culture and still be in the workplace.’ It’s always been a whisper, but now women speak. We won’t let anyone tell us how to wear our hair. “

Brittani Gray, a natural hairdresser and owner of Hairkitchen LLC in Norwood, said she was born and raised in the city of Cincinnati and praised the law.

“My clientele ranges from academics and financial analysts to educators and entrepreneurs,” said Gray. “One of the constant conversations that pops up in my room is that ‘natural hair is acceptable in the workplace’ weekly. I have to combat the damning criticism my guests receive from the workplace of their natural curls and styles that maintain the integrity of their hair. ‘

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