Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Wednesday a bill making California the first state to ban workplace and school discrimination against black people for wearing hairstyles such as braids, twists, and locks. The law introduced by Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles, a black woman who wears her hair in locks, makes California the first state to explicitly say that those hairstyles are associated with race and therefore protected against discrimination in the workplace and in schools, the AP reports. "We are changing the course of history, hopefully, across this country by acknowledging that what has been defined as professional hair styles and attire in the work place has historically been based on a Euro-centric model—based on straight hair," Mitchell says.
Alikah Hatchett-Fall, who runs Sacred Crowns Salon in Sacramento, says she's had black men come into her salon asking to have their hair cut off because they can't find jobs. The law, she says, "means that psychologically and mentally people can be at ease and be able to get the jobs they want, keep the jobs they want, and get promoted at the jobs they want." California's new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, is significant because federal courts have historically held that hair is a characteristic that can be changed, meaning there's no basis for discrimination complaints based on hairstyle. The US Supreme Court recently declined to hear the case of an Alabama woman who said she didn't get a job because she refused to change her hair. (Last year, a black high school wrestler was told by a referee that he had to cut off his dreadlocks.)