Next month California could make history as the first state to protect the rights of people with braided, twisted or locked hair. State Senator Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles has introduced Senate Bill 188, the CROWN Act. CROWN stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair.” But the fact that in 2019 a state — and the first, at that — is literally debating whether Black people can exist as created is a clear signal that we need Black owned businesses more than ever.
Dr. King once said, “the goal of America is freedom.” Ultimately this is what we strive for, to live free. Self determination is a part of that freedom — the freedom to choose, decide and forge one’s own fate. There is no freedom or self determination in a scheme where others literally have the authority to tell you that what your mother and father created, how you were born, is inherently flawed and unwelcome. Even if the CROWN Act passes, the “victory” would be that other people who have power over us are being nice today. But what if they change tomorrow? Small victories and concessions do not equal true freedom.
Black entrepreneurs are not consumed with making their hair palatable to white politicians or bosses. Black entrepreneurs are free to be themselves and focus on pleasing their customers. Black entrepreneurs are free to hire Black people who are focused on the customer experience, not how often they need to perm their hair. Vibrant communities filled with vibrant Black owned businesses represent a strength economically which, properly organized, can have significant impact on the political landscape. Politics responds to money, money doesn’t respond to politics.
In the absence of economic power Black people often grasp for political solutions to mask or mitigate a condition of powerlessness. Yes we should engage politically and advocate for our interests but the fact that in 2019 Black people are depending on a state legislature to act right for a day is a problem. Pure and simple, we need to focus on building our own institutions, if we are to be free in this country.