UPDATE: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has agreed to review the U.S. Army’s new grooming standards that have been called “racially biased” and went into effect on March 31. The Women of the Congressional Black Caucus sent a letter to Hagel on April 10 that read in part: “African American women have often been required to meet unreasonable norms as it relates to acceptable standards of grooming in the workplace.” A We the People petition on WhiteHouse.gov also called for the Army to revise its Grooming Guidelines because it lacks regard for ethnic hair and should allow Black female soldiers to wear their hair neatly and in natural styles. Source
Black women enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces at a higher percentage than any other group, but the new guidelines for acceptable hairstyles might just alienate them. The new U.S. Army grooming guide prohibits a majority of natural hairstyles for Black women. Among other natural go-to protective styles, the Powerpoint presentation that detailed the new rules cites multiple braiding, twists, and Afros as unregulated styles. Once the new rules take effect, soldiers who wear these hairstyles will have to remove them or cover them with wigs or extensions if they do not want to face administrative discipline.
Some female soldiers have no issue calling out the Army for this blatant affornt against Black women. Here’s what one soldier had to say about the new U.S. Army grooming guide according to Aljazeera America’s The Stream:
Army veteran “Tonya” [name has been changed to protect identity], who has dreadlocks, spoke to The Stream about her opposition to the new rules, which she called “deliberate.”
“It’s very targeted because we all know who they’re talking about even though they never explicitly say the world ‘black’ or ‘African-American.’ 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.”