MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – During its April 20 meeting, Morgantown City Council unanimously voted to adopt the CROWN Act.
CROWN, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” prohibits race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities due to hair texture or protective hairstyles, including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots, according to the organization’s website.
“Our city council, and I think the City of Morgantown, in general, is a very welcoming place, and we want to make sure that everyone knows and understands that it’s not appropriate to engage in any kind of discrimination whatsoever. We felt that this was an important addition to our other nondiscrimination ordinances because we wanted to clarify that discrimination against natural hair is—it’s part of racial discrimination. It’s part of cultural discrimination that’s not going to be tolerated.”Rachel Fetty – Deputy Mayor, Morgantown
Fetty said she was grateful for her other council members who felt that this decision was a “no-brainer.”
This, she said, was indicative of a city council that is open to diversity, inclusion and one that has a commitment to the community as a whole.
These are the qualities that make cities and towns more attractive, Fetty said.
“Being open to diversity, being welcoming regardless of status, this is what’s causing our community to thrive,” Fetty said. “If you are a welcoming community, everyone will want to be here.”
The idea for the city council to adopt the CROWN Act originally came from West Virginia Del. Danielle Walker, who represents the Morgantown area.
Walker actually proposed her legislation in the 2021 West Virginia Legislative Session and wanted the state to recognize CROWN Act discrimination. However, that failed to pass for the second year in a row.
Failure at the state level to adopt the CROWN Act is a “heartbreaking loss,” Fetty said. She said that’s because, to some, this may seem like common sense and a small way of respecting and acknowledging people, but to others, it is not simple.
“But, the reality is that people are facing discrimination about this issue every day,” Fetty said. “They’re facing ridiculous choices about the way they’re judged simply for being themselves or reflecting their culture. And, we wouldn’t have to pass something that was so straightforward if we didn’t have someone out there who believed it’s their right to discriminate against folks.”
Fetty commended Walker on continuing to be an “outspoken advocate” for the passage of the CROWN Act, as well as her constituents.
She said she appreciates the delegate’s efforts and her willingness to be vulnerable in front of the council in order to push for a change she felt was important to her and her constituents.
“It’s a blessing to participate in solving such a problem, and I’m happy to do it,” Fetty said. “I’m certainly grateful for her.”