CINCINNATI – Cincinnati City Council voted 7-1 on Wednesday that discrimination against people with natural hair is illegal.
Cincinnati is the second city in the country, after New York City, to pass such a law. At the state level, California and New York have that law, and Kentucky is considering one.
Women emerged during Wednesday’s public comment session 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 road to improving the playing field in the community”.
Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, whose wife Pamela passed away earlier this year, said they had long conversations about how he would groom 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.”
“Your hair is your identity”:Natural hair discrimination could soon be banned in Cincinnati
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. If discrimination is found, a fine of $ 100 per day up to a total of $ 1,000 may be imposed until the practice ends.
Seelbach took an exception to Amy Murray’s lone no-vote from the Republican councilor.
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 asked Cincinnati City attorney Paula Boggs Muething if this was true. Boggs Muething said that while someone could make an assertion based on hair texture and type, they needed proof. This law makes it easier to prove discrimination based on wearing natural hair.
Seelbach then 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 that are humiliating and horrific.”
Former Cincinnati councilor Alicia Reece spoke during a public comment. She praised Seelbach for proposing the regulation.
“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. “