Black women in the military are allowed to have braids and twists again, according to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The change in regulation comes after an initial military ruling that was put in place that prohibited dreadlocks, cornrows larger than a quarter of an inch, braids larger than a quarter of an inch, headbands, and twists, as stated in the Army Regulation 670-1 code of conduct. Previously, those who violated the guidelines were subject to non-judicial punishment.
Military members—black women specifically—weren't too pleased with the altered guidelines, with some stating they make it difficult for black women to maintain their hair in the field. “Most black women, their hair doesn’t grow straight down, it grows out,” said Sergeant Jasmine Jacob, who launched a White House petition combating the new regulation back in April. “I’m disappointed to see the Army, rather than inform themselves on how black people wear their hair, they’ve white-washed it all.” Another online petition was started, with help from the Congressional Black Caucus, which advocated the cause in Congress.
In response, Defense Secretary Hagel wrote a letter to the Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, saying, according to the New York Times, that both the Army and the Air Force would now allow cornrow, braids, and other hairstyles that were previously prohibited. He also stated that the new code of conduct would no longer use words like "matted" and "unkempt."
Fudge commented on the changes, saying that they "recognize that traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are often necessary to meet our unique needs, and acknowledges that these hairstyles do not result in or reflect less professionalism or commitment to the high standards required to serve within our armed forces."
It's great that the Army is finally realizing the regulations made in April were ridiculous. Still, the fact that this required a prolonged discussion is absurd in and of itself.