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Military hair law is racially biased

Last week the Army published an update to Army Regulation 670-1, rules regulating how women can wear their hair when they are in uniform. While the rule change might simply been seen as a way for women soldiers to look even more professional, it clearly targets a specific group of women – non-white women.

Unauthorized hairstyles include twists and dreadlocks, both styles that are often worn by non-white women with natural hair.

When more than 30 percent of the women in the military are women of color, a large percentage of those women are being disenfranchised and they are rightfully upset. Their natural hair is being discriminated against, which would force them to conform to make their hair less “ethnic” and more acceptable, or in this case, straight.

A Whitehouse.gov petition to ask the Army to reconsider the new changes currently has more than 13,000 signatures. The petition states that, “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. These new changes are racially biased and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent. This policy needs to be reviewed prior to publishing to allow for neat and maintained natural hairstyles.”

Patricia Jackson-Kelley of the National Association of Black Military Women said, “I don’t see how a woman wearing three braids in her hair, how that affects her ability to perform her duty in the military.”

We owe it to our women in uniform to respect their diversity and individuality. While professional appearance is obviously important, it is unfair and even cruel to force women to change the way they look because it does not conform to an accepted type of beauty, especially when the new rules have no logical basis for helping their performance. This is the Army, not the runway, folks.

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