Local leaders react to Gov. Ricketts’ veto of hair discrimination bill

Published: Aug. 21, 2020 at 4:24 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A bill aimed to ban natural hair discrimination within the workplace was vetoed by Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts last week.

Supporters of the bill are speaking out with concerns.

“Natural hair discrimination is a type of racist behavior and practices. We failed. We failed Nebraskans. Specifically Black folks,” said Ashlei Spivey, a boardmember with the ACLU of Nebraska.

Nebraska State Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (District 6) introduced the bill and said she is confused by Ricketts’ decision.

“When we as a society are facing racial injustices and facing them loudly and publicly,” she said.

Cavanaugh said the bill received no opposition while moving through the Legislature.

She said Ricketts chose to veto the bill because it did not make any exemptions for the health and safety of the workplace.

“Which is factually untrue. That already exists in statute for the Nebraska Employment Opportunity Commission,” she explained.

Cavanaugh added Ricketts was also concerned the bill covered hairstyles sometimes worn by Black women such as braids and twists.

“Sometimes their hair texture needs to be managed in different ways. And this allows them that freedom to manage their hair the way they see fit,” she said.

Spivey is the founder of I Be Black Girl, an organization working towards empowering Black women and girls.

She said she has faced discrimination because of her natural hair and the veto sends a clear message.

“We don’t matter in that way and we don’t show up authentically to work and that our promotions, us getting a job, could be dependent on if we’re deemed professional or not by our hair,” Spivey said.

Spivey and Cavanaugh hope women and men continue to speak up and share their experiences when it comes to wearing their natural hair.

“We have to humanize this and say this is not just happening in California and Colorado and other states where it’s passed. It’s happening right here to your neighbors, to your friends, to your family. Nebraska needs to take a stand,” Cavanaugh said.

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