In reaction to a new Army regulation that bans many popular hairstyles worn by its black female soldiers, the Congressional Black Caucus has asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to overturn the ruling.
Currently, 26,700 African American women are on active duty in the Army.
The regulation comes at the same time as a new Army rule banning tattoos on the face, neck, hands, fingers and lower arms of recruits.
Both regulations are among new grooming standards that critics say are meant to further weed people out of an Army reducing its size from its post-9/11 peak of 570,000 to as low as 420,000 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. The new regulations, announced on March 31, have intensified that feeling, she said.
The new rules of tattoos have come under fire, but the regulations on black hairstyles have drawn more outrage and charges of racism. So far, more than 17,000 people have signed a White House petition that calls for the hair regulations to be rescinded.
A lack of misunderstanding about black hair is at the root of the concern about the regulations imposed by the Army, coupled with a norm that uses the hair of white women as its baseline.
A petition created in opposition of the regulation failed to garner 100,000 signatures needed for the White House to get an official response from President Obama.
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