A new Army regulation is banning numerous hairstyles including twists, dreadlocks and large cornrows — hairstyles usually adorned by women of color.
Now, the 16 women of the Congressional Black Caucus have asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to overturn the regulation on behalf of more than 25,000 African-American women on active duty in the Army.
According to the Washington Post, the regulations are among new grooming standards that critics say are meant to further weed people out of an Army reducing its size from post-9/11 numbers in the years to come.
Representative Marcia L. Fudge, the Ohio Democrat who is chairwoman of the black caucus, said she had been struck in recent visits to military bases by how many soldiers – black and white – said they felt they were being pushed out of the military. Fudge also told the Washington Post, “One of the things they should not do is insult the people who’ve given up their time and put their lives at risk by saying their hair is unkempt.”
The Washington Post gets to the root of the matter saying several black females feel there is “a lack of understanding about black hair, coupled with a norm that uses the hair of white women as its baseline. While black hair comes in all textures, much of it is deeply curly, making it difficult, unless chemically straightened, to pull back into a bun or to hang loose off the face in a neat, uniform way”.
Army officials insist the updates were cleared by a focus group that included black women in the Army.