Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel says Congress Will Take a Second Look at Controversial Grooming Policies

The Army's new guidelines on unauthorized hairstyles has minority women in knots. The Army says the guidelines ensure uniformity. Some black soldiers say the requirements are racially biased.
The Army’s new guidelines on unauthorized hairstyles has minority women in knots. The Army says the guidelines ensure uniformity. Some black soldiers say the requirements are racially biased.

The Pentagon will review its policies on hairstyles following backlash from African-American soldiers, who said the Army’s revised rules are racially and culturally biased.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has notified Congress that he has directed his deputy to “work with the service secretaries and the military chiefs to review their respective policies, to address the issues raised by members of Congress about grooming standards, particularly for African-American females,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said this week.

Over the next month, the military will take a close look at the “the definitions of authorized and prohibited hairstyles contained in each of their respective policies and revise any offensive language,” Kirby said.

“During the next three months, each service will review their hairstyle policies as they pertain to African-American women to ensure standards are fair and respectful of our diverse force, while also meeting our military service’s requirements,” he said.

Hagel will tweak Pentagon policies accordingly after the reviews are completed, Kirby added.

The latest twist in the hairstyle saga follows an uproar over the Army’s new grooming guidelines.

Those rules require such things as hair “must be of uniform dimension, small in diameter (approximately ¼ inch), show no more than 1/8 (inch) of the scalp between the braids.”

Current Army rules ban dreadlocks and twists of any kind as well as styles it views as “unkempt” or “matted.”

That type of language rankled African-American soldiers, their supporters and the female members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said the guidelines force African-American women with “natural” hair textures — those unaltered by heat or chemicals — to either cut or straighten their roots in order to conform to the Army’s rules and mainstream cultural standards.

One African-American female soldier started an online White House petition, which received more than 13,000 signatures and is no longer on the website.

The Army’s rules also touched on centuries old cultural identity politics that have been a sensitive issue for the black community since slavery.

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Source: CNN | Halimah Abdullah

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