California is about to become the first state to ban discrimination based on hair style.
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California will become the first state to ban racial discrimination based on hair style thanks to a new bill that was passed last week.

The CROWN Act, which stands for "Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair," passed Thursday in the Senate 69 to 0 and is heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who's expected to sign it into law, NPR reports.

The bill was introduced by Senator Holly J. Mitchell and co-founded by Dove to ensure that "traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and hairstyle, be protected from discrimination in the work place and in our K-12 public and charter schools," according to a press release.

Hair styles included in the bill include Afros, twists, braids, and locks. "The history of our nation is riddled with laws and societal norms that equated 'blackness,' and the associated physical traits, for example, dark skin, kinky and curly hair to a badge of inferiority, sometimes subject to separate and unequal treatment," the bill notes.


The bill also addresses the shortcomings of existing federal law, which currently protects people of color from being discriminated against for wearing their hair in an afro, but fails to address the other styles mentioned.

Beauty standards in the United States have far too long been riddled with racist undertones, often favoring Eurocentric characteristics.

"Despite the great strides American society and laws have made to reverse the racist ideology that Black traits are inferior, hair remains a rampant source of racial discrimination with serious economic and health consequences, especially for Black individuals," the bill reads.

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It also addresses the fact that professionalism is unfairly associated with predominantly white traits, as well.

"This idea also permeated societal understanding of professionalism. Professionalism was, and still is, closely linked to European features and mannerisms, which entails that those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional," the bill reads.

Mitchell told NPR she's been contacted by numerous people who've recounted stories of discrimination based on the way they wear their hair.

"The sheer volume of women and men and parents of students who have been sent home because someone deems their braids, twists or locks were inappropriate for workplace settings, the sheer volume of people, suggests this clearly is a law whose time has come," she said.

A study released in 2017 showed an overwhelming bias towards black women who wear their hair natural.

The "Good Hair Study" was conducted by the Perception Institute, "a consortium of researchers, advocates and strategists" who conduct emotional and psychological research to identify and reduce bias, in partner with SheaMoisture, a black owned beauty brand.

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Over 4,000 participants took an online implicit association test where they were shown rapidly-changing photos of black women with smooth and natural hair, along with word associations for both.

The results show that the majority of participants, regardless of their race, showed an implicit bias against black women's textured hair. Furthermore, on average, white women show an explicit bias toward black women's textured hair and rate it as less beautiful and less professional than smooth hair.

"Our findings provide an important backdrop to recent events related to natural hair — from legal cases on hair professionalism to appropriateness in school — and have direct implications for future research and conversations related to black women's experiences. This study is the first to use the Hair IAT and to conduct a national study of women's anxiety linked to hair," the Perception Institute said.

While California is the first state to pass an anti-discrimniation law focussing on hair styles, both New York and New Jersey have proposed similar legislation. In February, New York City enacted a policy protecting cornrows, fades, Afros, and other hairstyles

"Black hairstyles are protected racial characteristics under the [New York City Human Rights Law] because they are an inherent part of Black identity," New York's Commission on Human Rights said.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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