Legislators in #PuertoRico have ignited a public debate over a bill that seeks to explicitly prohibit discrimination against hairstyles such as cornrows and Afros. The proposal has sparked a heated discussion, with local government officials arguing that existing federal and local laws already address such discrimination. However, Puerto Rican activists argue that the Afro-Caribbean community on the island still faces discrimination and requires specific protection in areas like public services, work, education, and housing.
During a recent public hearing, individuals shared personal experiences of discrimination based on their hairstyles. These hairstyles are culturally significant and hold historical importance. Puerto Rico is a racially diverse territory, with more than 1.6 million people identifying as of two or more races and nearly 230,000 identifying solely as Black, according to the U.S. Census.
The bill's co-author, Senator Ana Irma Rivera Lassén, questioned the government's reluctance to add explicit protection. Supporters of the bill argue that existing laws do not cover certain hairstyles like braids, locks, and Bantu knots. The debate is expected to continue in the coming weeks.
Several states, including Texas, have implemented the CROWN Act in the United States mainland, which bans hairstyle discrimination in various areas. The U.S. House of Representatives approved a federal version of the CROWN Act in 2022, although it failed in the Senate. Similar efforts to relax hair codes have also been seen in other Caribbean countries.
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