A new Army regulation outlining how female soldiers should wear their hair has caused an uproar among Black female soldiers, who claim that it is “racially biased” against Black women and their hair.
U.S. Army officials on March 31 released a new appearance and grooming parameter which included three hairstyles that are now “unauthorized”: multiple large braids, headbands other than plain devices, and twists.
“I’ve been in the military six years, I’ve had my hair natural four years, and it’s never been out of regulation,” Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard told USA Today. “It’s never interfered with my head gear.”
Jacobs, who wears her hair in two twists, started a White House petition against the regulation. Like Jacobs, many Black women wear twists, cornrows or headbands as protective styles, not just for fashion.
“Twists are the go-to style for Black female soldiers going to the field because it makes it easy to take care of in the field,” she said.
Thousands of people have signed the petition, which calls on the Army to reconsider changes to Regulation 670-1.
The petition states:
“More than 30 percent of females serving in the military are of a race other than White. As of 2011, 36 percent of females in the U.S. stated that they are natural, or refrain from chemically processing their hair. Females with natural hair take strides to style their natural hair in a professional manner when necessary; however, changes to AR 670-1 offer little to no options for females with natural hair. 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 prior to publishing to allow for neat and maintained natural hairstyles.”
“It’s very targeted because we all know who they’re talking about even though they never explicitly say the word ‘Black’ or ‘African-American,’” an Army veteran who declined to give her name told Al Jazeera America. “We all know who typically wears these types of hairstyles and then they went as far as to include pictures of Black women in the PowerPoint.”
“The Army is a profession, and one of the ways our leaders and the American people measure our professionalism is by our appearance,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Ray Chandler said in a statement. “Wearing of the uniform, as well as our overall military appearance, should be a matter of personal pride for all soldiers.”
A total of 100,000 signatures are needed by April 19 in order for the White House to consider the petition and revise the regulation. As of April 4, the petition had just under 12,000 signees.