Cincinnati Becomes Latest City to Ban Discrimination Based on Natural Hairstyles

The Cincinnati City Council has voted 7-to-1 to ban discrimination associated with "natural hair and hairstyles associated with race", with one member (Councilman Jeff Pastor) absent, according to, Fox19 and WLWT.

"As I was talking about this law, I heard over and over and over again, mostly from black women, the very real discrimination and how they are made to feel inferior because of their natural hair, which they take very much pride in. That impedes their ability to be their best selves and live up to their full potential. And we can do something about that," said Councilman Chris Seelbach, the person behind the ordinance.

The only no vote came from Councilwoman Amy Murray, who argued that the city law would be redundant because natural hair already falls under the sanctions of preexisting racial discrimination laws.

Seelbach responded to this statement by asking Cincinnati City Solicitor Paula Boggs Muething if it fell under such strictures. Boggs Muething said that while the victim could claim that texture and style were involved in the purported discrimination, they would need proof.

Said Seelbach to Murray then: "With all due respect, this is extreme privilege and a slap in the face to African American women, whose stories I have heard and are degrading and horrible."

Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard replied to Murray's comments by stating that she didn't understand why Murray wouldn't want to just make sure "People like me. People like Kamara (Douglas, who works with Seelbach) and Jasmine (Coaston, who works with P.G. Sittenfeld), have protections."

Vice mayor Christopher Smitherman, said they had long talks with his wife, Pamela, who passed away earlier this year, about how he would care for their young daughter's hair.

"Now, as a single father, there is no activity we do not plan around her hair care," Smitherman said. "What I want for her is that where she works, whatever she does, that she can wear her hair however she wants."

A stock photo of a woman with natural hair. Cincinnati has become the second American city to ban discrimination against people with natural hairstyles. skyNext/Getty

"If you're used to seeing hair in a certain way and you're seeing hair that's different, you might not think an overtly racial determination, but you're making one implicitly," Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard said. "Just because you're [not] breaking the law on paper, it doesn't necessarily mean you might not be discriminating against someone."

Under the law, the city would investigate complaints of discrimination. If discrimination is determined, a fine of up to $1,000—$100 per day—could be levied until the discriminatory practice is corrected.

Cincinnati is the second American city to pass such anti-discrimination laws, with New York City having banned natural hair discrimination in July, preceded by California, which banned it on a statewide level in June. Kentucky is also in the process of considering a ban.