WASHINGTON (AP) — New Army regulations meant to help standardize and professionalize soldiers' appearance are now coming under criticism by some black military women, who say changes in the hair requirement are racially biased.
The Army earlier this week issued new appearance standards, which included bans on most twists, dreadlocks and large cornrows, all styles used predominantly by African-American women with natural hairstyles. More than 11,000 people have signed a White House petition asking President Barack Obama, the commander in chief, to have the military review the regulations to allow for "neat and maintained natural hairstyles."
Some black military women, who make up about a third of the women in the armed forces, feel they have been singled out with these new regulations.
"I think that it primarily targets black women, and I'm not in agreement with it," said Patricia Jackson-Kelley of the National Association of Black Military Women. "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."
Even before the current controversy, the association had already planned to showcase the hairstyles of African-American women in the military throughout the years at its national convention in Phoenix in September.
While she also feels the new regulations unfairly target black women, former association president Kathleen Harris said she could understand why the regulations needed some uniformity. "The military is supposed to be conservative," she said. "My thing is that some folks look gorgeous in their twists, and some people go overboard. The twists are not small twists but they're real large ones and it doesn't fit the cover, your hat."