City Council: Discrimination against natural hair banned in Cincinnati

Council adopts natural hair ordinance

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday passed a law that would ban discrimination against natural hairstyles, adding a new protection to the city’s existing non-discrimination policy.

The law passed in a 7-1 vote in council, with Councilman Jeff Pastor absent from the meeting.

The ordinance was first introduced by Councilman Chris Seelbach last week. As written it will ban discrimination against natural, untreated hairstyles often associated with race.

“As I was talking about this law, I heard over and over and over again, mostly from black women, the very real discrimination and how they are made to feel inferior because of their natural hair, which they take very much pride in," Seelbach said. "That impedes their ability to be their best selves and live up to their full potential. And we can do something about that.”

Legislation documents state African American women are especially subject to discrimination based on “negative, lingering, cultural biases the frequently favor hairstyles and hair types that more closely resemble Eurocentric hair types and hair styles."

The only opposing vote came from Amy Murray. She said the unfavorable treatment of someone based on their race or personal characteristics is already banned since those protections are currently built into federal and state race discrimination laws.

“So, it’s already on the books that you cannot discriminate against race or color,” she said.

Seelbach countered, saying her comments come from a place of “extreme privilege.”

Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard said laws like this are “very necessary," citing that certain descriptions of hair — such as “messy” — might have implicit racial bias. She said the ordinance as written would take that implicit bias out of the equation.

“If you’re used to seeing hair in a certain way and you’re seeing hair that’s different, you might not think an overtly racial determination, but you’re making one implicitly,” Dennard said. "Just because you’re [not] breaking the law on paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean you might not be discriminating against someone.”

Among the legal protections covered in the proposed ordinance include discrimination related to dress codes, employment opportunities and housing.

California and New York have passed similar laws at the state level, according Seelbach’s office.

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