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Army Faces Backlash From Women Who Say New Hair Regulations are ‘Racially Biased’

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photo credit: U.S. Army

photo credit: U.S. Army

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LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — New U.S. Army grooming standards that went into effect earlier this week are being criticized by people who are calling them “racially biased.”

A We The People petition on WhiteHouse.gov, which has more than 9,900 signatures, says “the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent” and that the new policy should be revised to “allow for neat and maintained natural hairstyles.”

The petition, published March 20, also states:

As of 2011, 36% 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.”

The new changes also mandate that hair cannot exceed more than two inches from the scalp.

bulkofhair Army Faces Backlash From Women Who Say New Hair Regulations are Racially Biased

“Wearing of the uniform, as well as our overall military appearance, should be a matter of personal pride for all Soldiers,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III wrote on his Facebook page on the day the new regulations were formally published.

In response to his post, several people commented that the new rules limit the options for some women.

“I’m not happy about the no twists for women,” one person wrote. “They fail to understand for some reason that women of color have a different type of hair than other ethnicities. They don’t understand what perming of the hair does to some women. They don’t get that continued braiding causes a Black woman’s hair to become weak and start to fall out.”

“As a former Soldier it is hard to believe we have learned nothing about cultural sensitivity,” another commented. “…the recent hair grooming changes should be an embarrassment to all within the Army as they are purely discriminatory in nature.”

Army Times interviewed the woman who started the We The People petition, Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard, who says she is at a loss about how to wear her hair in compliance with the new regulations.

She’s disappointed in the Army because it seems as if they did not do enough research into how black women wear their hair, she said.

Army spokesman Paul Prince told Army Times that hair grooming standards are “necessary to maintain uniformity” and that “many hairstyles are acceptable, as long as they are neat and conservative.”

You can see a PDF document of the new regulations here.

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