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NJ looks to become third state to ban discrimination based on hair

Svetlana Shkolnikova | July 30, 2019 | North Jersey Record |


The moment a 16-year-old black wrestler was forced to decide between cutting his dreadlocks and forfeiting a match was a turning point for Assemblywoman Angela McKnight.

Her heart broke for Andrew Johnson, the Buena Regional High School student who stood solemnly last year as his dreads were cut with scissors in a crowded gym.

“That should not have been a choice for him to make,” McKnight said.

The incident sparked a national debate about how black hair is perceived and judged, and drew accusations of racism.

For McKnight, the episode was a catalyst to effect change.

She led the charge last month to ban discrimination based on hair, sponsoring a bill in the state Legislature that would add traits historically associated with race — including hair texture, hair type and protective hairstyles such as braids, locks and twists — to the state law against discrimination. An identical bill has been introduced in the state Senate.


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