In response to criticism about the American military’s newly revised policies regarding hairstyles, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the branch to review the regulations.
Hagel’s orders come on the heels of a complaint filed by 16 women of the Congressional Black Caucus, that alleges the regulations which ban large cornrows, twists and dreadlocks, discriminate against African American women.
Mr. Hagel said he had given the secretaries and military leaders of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines three months to review comprehensive military regulations as they pertain to black women “to ensure standards are fair and respectful of our diverse force.”
Mr. Hagel’s order raises the possibility that the Pentagon will go beyond the initial request of the black caucus that he overturn the Army’s new hair rules. Instead of looking only at the new Army regulations, a Pentagon spokesman said, Mr. Hagel is “opening the aperture” on all of the services, which black servicewomen have said for decades have forced them to conform to norms based on the hair of white women.
Black women have attributed a lack of understanding about the process of caring for black hair, especially when it isn’t chemically treated, as part of the reason for the Army regulations.
“Members of the CBC appreciate Secretary Hagel for his prompt response to our letter and for seriously considering our concerns,” Representative Marcia L. Fudge, Democrat of Ohio and chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement. She said Mr. Hagel’s response “affirms his commitment to ensuring all individuals are welcomed and can continue to be proud of serving in our armed forces.”
Mr. Hagel also ordered the military to review the definitions of authorized and banned hairstyles, scrubbing them of offensive language.
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Should army officials have caught this subtle form of discrimination before approving the regulations?
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