Study Buddy (Challenger): US House of Representatives passes bill to prohibit discrimination based on hair

  • Study Buddy Challenger is for students who want to take their understanding to the next level with more difficult vocabulary and questions that will test their inference skills
  • Check your reading comprehension using the questions below or in the linked Kahoot! game
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The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act is aimed at protecting African-Americans who face discrimination based on their hair. Illustration: Shutterstock

Content provided by British Council

Read the following text, and answer questions 1-9 below:

[1] Black people who wear natural hairstyles such as Afros, locs, cornrows or tightly coiled twists should not face bias in society, schools and the workplace, the US House of Representatives said last month in voting to make it explicit that such discrimination is a violation of federal civil rights law. “There are folks in this society who think because your hair ... is not straightened blond and light brown, that you somehow are not worthy of access,” Democratic Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, the lead sponsor of the bill, said during debate on the House floor. “Well, that’s discrimination.”

[2] The House voted 235-to-189 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of hair texture and hairstyle. The bill now goes to the US Senate, where its fate is uncertain. President Joe Biden has already said he would sign the bill, known as the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, into law.

[3] All but 14 Republicans voted against the measure, and some called it unnecessary, saying federal protections against hair discrimination already existed. But House Democrats noted that judges had dismissed civil rights cases because the law does not directly cover discrimination on the basis of hair. A 2019 study by Dove showed one in five Black women working in office or sales settings said they had to alter their natural hair. The study also found Black pupils were far more likely to be suspended for dress code or hair “violations”.

[4] In 2017, twin sisters Mya and Deanna Cook from the state of Massachusetts were told by their school to remove their box braids. They refused, saying the policy was discriminatory and unevenly enforced. School administrators told them that the ban on hair extensions had been designed to “foster a culture that emphasises education rather than style, fashion or materialism”.

[5] For refusing to comply, Deanna was kicked off the school track team despite having qualified for the state finals. Mya was removed from the softball team and told she could not attend an important school event. “When people have hatred towards a certain group, they don’t care,” Deanna said. The Massachusetts attorney general later forced the school to change its policy.

[6] In a December 2018 incident in the state of New Jersey, a student wrestler, Andrew Johnson, was forced to choose between forfeiting his match or cutting off his dreadlocks. His coach cut his hair courtside, and Andrew, then 16, went on to win the match. But video from the event shows the student visibly distraught. “Watching that was heartbreaking,” Congresswoman Coleman said. “But the fact that he withstood that public humiliation and immediately went and won says so much about that young man’s character.”

[7] More than a dozen US states have already passed legislation to ban race-based discrimination on the basis of hair. Congressman Cory Booker, the lead sponsor of the CROWN Act in the Senate, said the bill becoming law would mean no one should expect to be “harassed, punished, or fired for their natural hairstyles that are true to themselves and their cultural heritage”.
Source: Associated Press, March 19


Play a Kahoot! game about this story as a class or with your friends by clicking on the link here.

Or play on your own below to test your understanding:

1. What does “such discrimination” in paragraph 1 refer to?

2. According to paragraphs 2 and 3, how did the minority of lawmakers vote, and why? (2 mark)

3. What did Dove’s 2019 study find?
A. Most Black women were uncomfortable with their natural hair colour.
B. Black people with natural hairstyles were less likely to be offered a job.
C. Black students were more likely to dye their hair to fit in with their non-Black classmates.
D. none of the above

4. Find a word in paragraph 4 that means “bring about”.

5. Which of the following best describes Mya and Deanna’s “box braids” in paragraph 4?
A. They are chemically treated to create a straight and sleek hairstyle.
B. They are made by weaving fake hair with natural hair to create a longer and thicker hairstyle.
C. They are worn on the head to cover natural hair.
D. They are dyed with a special liquid that lightens the colour of the natural hair.

6. How were the sisters punished for not adhering to the school’s policy?

7. What does the “public humiliation” in paragraph 6 refer to?

8. Decide if the following statements about the CROWN Act are True, False or Not Given in the text. (4 marks)
(i) Cory Booker believes its provisions are already sufficiently covered by other laws.
(ii) It bans students from changing their natural hairstyles if their principals order them to do so.
(iii) If it had been made into law in 2016, neither of the two school incidents described in the article would have been legal under federal law.
(iv) There are plans to extend the act so that it bans discrimination against those who wear wigs.

9. In which section of a newspaper might you find this article?
A. social issues
B. education
C. entertainment
D. style trends

Deanna Cook, left, was punished by her school for wearing box braids, while white students had not been disciplined for violating hairstyle regulations. Photo: AP


1. bias against Black people who wear natural hairstyles
2. They voted against a bill prohibiting discrimination on the basis of hair texture and hairstyles because they said federal protections against hair discrimination already existed.
3. D
4. foster
5. B
6. Deanna was kicked off the school track team, while Mya was removed from the softball team and told she could not attend an important school event.
7. To compete in a wrestling match, Andrew Johnson was forced to have his dreadlocks cut courtside by his coach.
8. (i) F; (ii) F; (iii) T; (iv) NG
9. A

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