New Army standards target ethnic hairstyles, enrages black women - WRBL

New Army standards target ethnic hairstyles, enrages black women

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New hair standards for military personnel have shocked some with the restrictions they put on black women. Black women in the Army can say goodbye to dreadlocks, twists, and cornrows, styles their ancestors have been wearing for centuries.

The American military prides itself on a professional and conservative presentation, but new rules now exclude some hairstyles. Without natural "do's" like dreads and braids, black women are left with few options, chemical treatments like relaxers, or chopping it all off.

Retired Army warrant officer Shirley Hawkins chose the latter when she was serving, but she says not everyone should be forced to make that decision. "
I don't care how much relaxer you put in it," she says, "it's going to go to its natural state. You expect her to walk around with her hair sticking up over her head."

Long-time hairstylist Jerry Moffett, Sr. explains that with daily exercises and other strenuous physical activities, it's far easier for black women to have braids or dreadlocks than to spend extra time straightening and drying their hair.

He says, "If she don't really know how to maintain a straight hairstyle, when she finishes running, she's going to look a mess."

Hawkins says the people who created these rules just don't understand what they're asking of women with coarser hair. "As the hair grows out, the texture is still what it is, and so you have to do something with that, and usually that's braids," she says.

She and Moffett agree the new rules are racially charged.

Hawkins says, "You can still maintain a professional look without losing your ethnicity."

Moffett adds, "A white male's idea of what a black woman should look like, he has no concept."

The regulations also keep women from cutting their hair less than 1/4 inch, but they are allowed to wear extensions and wigs.

Nearly 14,000 people have signed a petition asking President Obama to have the military review these rules.

You can see the new standards here: (see pages 4-9 for hair regulations)

To view the petition to President Obama, see:

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.

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