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Black Female Troops: Army's Hair Regulations Are 'Racially Biased'

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 07:02 AM

By Michael Mullins

Black female troops are claiming that the recently revised hair regulations in the Army are "racially biased" and have launched a White House petition this week calling for officials to reconsider them.

On Monday, an update to Army Regulation 670-1 was published. The regulation defines Army-appropriate hairstyles, which excludes hairstyles that feature twists or multiple braids that are bigger than a quarter of an inch in diameter. The regulation also prohibits dreadlocks of any style, the Army Times reported. Cornrows are permitted as long as they do not exceed a quarter of an inch in width.

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According to Army spokesman Paul Prince, these hairstyles have been banned since 2005. However, prior to Monday's update, the uniform regulation code did not name specific hairstyles.

On the same day the uniform regulation update was announced, Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs, of the Georgia National Guard, launched a White House "We the People" petition asking the Army to "reconsider changes to AR 670-1 to allow professional ethnic hairstyles." As of Wednesday morning, the petition received more than 6,600 signatures.

"In the proposed changes, unauthorized hairstyles include twists, both flat twists as well as two strand twists; as well as dreadlocks, which are defined as 'any matted or locked coils or ropes of hair,'" the petition says. "These new changes are racially biased and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent. This policy needs to be reviewed prior to publishing to allow for neat and maintained natural hairstyles."

Jacobs, who wears her hair in two twists, said she has been serving in the Army for six years and has been wearing her hair natural, without chemical processing, for four years, and "it's never interfered with my head gear."

"We feel let down," Jacobs said. "I think, at the end of the day, a lot of people don't understand the complexities of natural hair. A lot of people, instead of educating themselves, they think dreadlocks and they think Bob Marley, or they see women with really big Afros and they think that's the only thing we can do with our hair."

Jacobs' objection to the clarified uniform regulation was echoed by Staff Sgt. Mary Johnson, who posted her objection to the new code on Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ray Chandler's Facebook page, the Army Times noted.

"As far as the twists, that really limits females with curly/kinky hair," Johnson said. "I can't simply pull my hair back due to excessive knotting. I proudly wear twists in a professional manner every day and only took them down on the weekends. It makes it very difficult for ethnic females."

In response to the backlash, Prince defended the Army's regulation update, telling the Army Times that "many hairstyles are acceptable, as long as they are neat and conservative."

"In addition, headgear is expected to fit snugly and comfortably, without bulging or distortion from the intended shape of the headgear and without excessive gaps," Prince added. "Unfortunately, some hairstyles do not meet this standard or others listed in AR 670-1."

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