This is the perfect example of how remarkable developments can take effect once we come together. There is enough hatred in this world from the Ferguson, MO police crack down of what is essentially “a war on black teens” down to the petty Youtube comments that make us all realize just how deep roots stemmed in hatred can spread. But when we come together, beautiful things happen.
Imagine having to wake up every day, submerge your hair under an 3-inch slather of gel before going to work, just to avoid the “hair poof” that could land you in serious violation of your job’s policies. This very scenario is what many African American women in our military face. A few of them even attempt cornrowing their hair in order to keep their hair “tamed” and avoid the “unruly” manes that could possibly cost them their jobs. The only problem? Cornrows were also prohibited under military policy.
In April, the newly revised military hair policy went under review after mass outcry and a lengthy petition was signed stating that the military policies–which banned cornrows, twists, locs, and other hairstyles typically worn by African American women–were racially biased and discriminatory.
On Monday, August 11, 2014, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that military branches are revising grooming rules to permit hairstyles such as twists and braids. Yay for our natural-haired patriots in the military!
Many, particularly some lawmakers, found (despite Army officials claiming that the regulation applied to all soldiers regardless of race) that the wording used in the hair policy was offensive and biased–particularly the use of the words “unkempt” and “matted” when referring to traditional African American hairstyles.
Hagel has ordered each military branch to review its policies. In a letter, Hagel claims that the Army and the Air Force have now “eliminated offensive language, including the terms ‘matted and unkempt,’ ” and the Navy and Marine Corps did not use that language in their policies.
The new policies have added some promising additions, which include two-strand twists or braids. However, in the Navy, multiple braids that hang freely need approval, but must remain above the collar.
Each branch is finalizing its own policy updates, with the Navy to roll out its updated policy later this summer. The Navy still re-iterates that a sailor’s appearance must be “neat” and “professional” at all times.
For a woman to feel forced into wearing a wig to work daily, or to be punished for something her hair naturally does (re: “the poof”) is a confinement that even military personnel should not have to live with–especially if it doesn’t interrupt the functionality of your job. I can understand a policy requiring a serviceman’s hair to fit into his/her helmet in battle or underneath standard issue caps at a ceremony. What I never understood from the beginning was how hairstyles specifically aimed at keeping coarser hair types down flat on the head, e.g., cornrows, prevented that aim. I’m sure our sisters in arms appreciate the long-overdue updates. Hopefully, cultural awareness that more than one hair type exists will continue to permeate throughout the varying professions.
It is a good day when coming together yields positive results. It’s one small step for the natural hair movement (and minorities in general), but one giant leap for basic human decency.
Peace, Love, and Live Life Full,