Is the Army’s Ban of Natural Hairstyles Racist?

Images via US Army

Images via US Army

The U.S. Army released on Monday a new regulation that prohibits a variety of natural hairstyles from being worn. Under Army Regulation 670-1, cornrows, twists and dreadlocks are prohibited. There has been a firestorm of backlash since the release of this new regulation, and many black women are saying the ban on these hairstyles is racist.

At initial read, I thought the ban was ludicrous and that this was an attack on black women in the U.S. army. But upon further inspection, I actually see the necessity in the ban. They aren’t banning braids completely but merely demanding that braids be small in diameter, and worn neatly and professionally. There are certain natural hair styles that can still be rocked. Some have argued that banning certain hairstyles restricts a person’s individuality. But WHY oh WHY do you need to stand out in the army? The whole purpose of wearing a uniform is simply that: to be uniform. I can say the same with those in a corporate environment. You don’t need to rock your afros and other distracting hairstyles because the purpose of the army and the workplace isn’t to stand out. One concern is if women are allowed to rock big braids and twists, whether they will still be able to fit their helmets on. This is one of the major issues that has prompted the ban. Army spokesman Troy A. Rolan Sr. told the Washington Post that it is absolutely necessary to maintain uniformity.

Many people saw the pictures that were floating around and didn’t actually do any research about what the ban actually said. They’re not prohibiting ALL natural hairstyles…just certain styles. For the most part, you can still rock certain styles as long as they look neat and professional.

One young, black, female soldier I spoke with [who prefers to stay anonymous] had this to say, “I have curly hair and I have never worn it down with little clips and twists. I put my hair in a bun because it’s neat and I am in uniform…I don’t need to stand out. Is the regulation overboard this time? Yes. They’re hindering black females from having protective styles for their hair. Is it random? No. Black females have been testing the limit forever. It looks bulky at times, unprofessional…you shouldn’t look like you’re trying to stand out, in uniform. I’ve seen some people rock nice natural styles! However, we’re in the Army. I cannot stress professionalism and uniformity enough. The regulation isn’t saying no braids, it says no twists because twists look like dreads and dreads have been prohibited. It’s restricting females from a certain size of braid because those tend to look messy. So that’s straying from the neat and kept look the army is going for. I’m not against the natural hair movement by any means but the military requires you to be conservative, with your makeup, your Facebook, your uniform and your hair. Why are you trying to stand out wearing the same uniform as everyone else?”

Are you against the ban like these other 10,000 people who have signed the petition to have it reconsidered? If so, why do you feel that this prohibition was wrong? Personally, I’m not against the prohibition. Speaking as someone who doesn’t know how to do her own natural hair, I would have to learn to improvise and try new styles if I were in the army. The point isn’t to take away the freedom of choice but rather to make everyone look uniform and stress neatness and professionalism in appearance.

What do you think?

1 Comment

  • Trudy says:

    I did sign the petition. I’m in agreement with the solider you quoted that professionalism and uniformity is paramount however, I think revisions to some of the hair guidelines are in order. Specifically twists. The new regs state you cannot have more than 2 inches of bulge from the scalp. The new regs permit those with medium hair to wear it loose. As a women with afro textured hair even if you hair hangs to your collar when straight, in it’s natural state “medium” hair afros out. Accordingly many women two strand twist their hair so it will hang. Two strand twisted medium hair can look professional. I think some would respond you can just braid instead of twist, but it take significantly longer to braid all your hair then twist. For me those nuances should be evaluated and reflected in the new regs.

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