Black Soldiers Win Battle Over 'Racially Biased' Hairstyle Rules

Wednesday, 13 Aug 2014 02:42 PM

By Drew MacKenzie

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Thousands of female soldiers have won their battle with the military over new hairstyle regulations that they claimed were "racially biased" against black women.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force have changed their policy to allow female service members to wear hairstyles that have been banned since April, Stars and Stripes reported.

The reversal came after the Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had ordered the services to each conduct a "cultural sensitivity" review of new regulations governing "unauthorized" hairstyles, as well as tattoos, grooming, and uniforms.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus claimed that the regulations contained offensive language and unfairly targeted African-American women. Thousands of soldiers had also signed a White House petition demanding that President Barack Obama rescind the rules.

After their reviews, the Army and Air Force decided that the words "matted" and "unkempt" were offensive, and expunged them from their regulations. The Navy and Marine Corps said their rules did not contain offensive or discriminatory language.

The Army regulations in April had stated that the service does not allow "twists" or multiples braids bigger than a quarter-inch in diameter, and also prohibited any type of dreadlocks while insisting that cornrows must be no bigger than a quarter-inch.

Now women in the Army can wear two-strand twists, larger braids, cornrows and twists, as well ponytails during physical training, according to Stars and Stripes.

Female sailors can wear two-strand twists and multiple braids that hang freely above the collar and cover the entire head. Female airmen can now wear two-strand twists, French twists, and Dutch braids, the military newspaper said.

However, dreadlocks are still prohibited by all three services. Hagel described the changes in a letter on Monday to Ohio Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has urged active duty Marines and reserves to fill in an online survey about hairstyle policies by Friday.

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