Tags: Army | hairstyle | rules | bias | uniform

Black Soldiers Blast New Army Hairstyle Rules as 'Racially Biased'

Image: Black Soldiers Blast New Army Hairstyle Rules as 'Racially Biased'

Wednesday, 02 Apr 2014 10:59 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Thousands of soldiers have signed a White House petition demanding that President Barack Obama rescind new Army hairstyle regulations that they say are "racially biased" against black women.

The rules, which went into effect Monday and also govern tattoos, grooming, and uniforms, explains what the Army deems "unauthorized" hairstyles for its female troops, according to Army Times.

They state that the Army does not allow "twists" or multiples braids bigger than a quarter- -inch in diameter, while also prohibiting any type of dreadlocks and insisting that cornrows must be no bigger than a quarter-inch.

Army spokesman Paul Prince said that although dreadlocks and cornrows have been banned since 2005, the rules previously failed to clearly outline specific unauthorized hairstyles, according to Army Times.

In a new leadership training manual for uniform policy, Army Regulation 670-1 spells out the regulations and shows a series of photos and diagrams of hairstyles on the banned list, several of which are popular with black women.

Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard, who wears her hair in two twists, is so angry with the new rules that she launched the White House petition.

"I’ve been in the military six years," she told the Army Times. "I’ve had my hair natural four years, and it’s never been out of regulation. It’s never interfered with my head gear.

"Most black women, their hair doesn’t grow straight down, it grows out. I’m disappointed to see the Army, rather than inform themselves on how black people wear their hair, they’ve white-washed it all."

She said her hair is too thick and curly to tie into a bun and that her twists make it "easy to take care of in the field."

The petition states, "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.'

"These new changes are racially biased, and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent. This policy needs to be reviewed to allow for neat and maintained natural hairstyles."

Jacobs told the Army Times that she will probably have to wear a wig during training exercises because using chemicals to relax her hair or putting it up in cornrows will damage her locks.

"We feel let down," Jacobs said.

Prince, the army spokesman, said that hair grooming standards are important "to maintain uniformity within the military."

More than 7,900 soldiers and supporters had signed the petition by 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. For the White House to address the petition, 100,000 people must sign it.

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