The normalization of black hair was an important issue at the Oscars this year, and for good reason, with Hair Love director Matthew A. Cherry using his acceptance speech to call out the CROWN Act, a bill signed into legislation in California in July 2019 to prevent discrimination against people of color on the basis of their hair. This type of discrimination was seen recently when teen DeAndre Arnold was suspended from school for his dreadlocks, and now representatives from his home state of Texas are pushing to pass a version of the bill. Cherry invited Arnold to attend the Oscars with him, making a powerful statement about normalizing black hair.
In 2019, New York and New Jersey subsequently introduced versions of the CROWN Act — which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair — and the Texas Black Caucus are currently campaigning to pass the act in their state. This important act protects against “unjust grooming policies that have a disparate impact on black children, women, and men” in workplaces and public schools, as CROWN Coalition advocate Adjoa Asamoah explained in a press conference reported on by the Texas Tribune. Currently only three states protect against hair discrimination.
Arnold was barred from his high school graduation if he refused to cut off his dreadlocks to suit the school's dress code, attracting the attention of big-name celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres. After appearing on her show last week, DeGeneres awarded Arnold a $20,000 scholarship towards his continued education.
He was subsequently invited to attend the Oscars by both Matthew A. Cherry, Oscar-winning director of Hair Love, an animated short that aims to normalize black hair, as well as Gabrielle Union and husband Dwyane Wade.
Arnold's mother, Sandy, also attended the awards show with the A-list celebrities, and her son has praised her efforts to raise awareness for the CROWN Act in interviews. The beauty company Dove, which sponsored Arnold's tickets to the Oscars, tweeted its support with the hashtag #MyHairMyWay including a petition for the CROWN Act.