The Right to be Natural

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The United States has prided itself on being one of the most racially diverse countries in the world. For centuries millions of African Americans have lost their lives and suffered for the right of equality and fairness in a Caucasian owned country.

Sure, slavery was abolished in 1865, and the Civil Rights Movement ended in 1968 but the fact is America is not as liberal and racially unbiased as its lead on to be.

On April 1 the U.S Army updated its Army Regulation 670-1, a code of conduct that explains rules and regulations that each soldier must obey including hairstyles wore by soldiers. According to the new regulations, hairstyles commonly favored by African American women have been strictly prohibited and soldiers found in violation will face non-judicial punishment from commanders in the form of administrative discipline.

With the approximately 44.5 million African American inhabiting America, one would assume that there would be a better understanding the African American culture and traditions. African Americans have been wearing protective hairstyles such as twist, dreadlocks and braids for hundreds of years because of the unique growth pattern of kinky/curly hair.

Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs, of the National Guard, began a White House petition that calls for the U.S Army to reconsider their decision to prohibit the African-American friendly hairstyles.

“Most black women, their hair doesn’t grow straight down, it grows out,” she said. “I’m disappointed to see the Army, rather than inform themselves on how black people wear their hair, they’ve white-washed it all.”

On one hand, there is no way for an African American woman with natural hair to achieve the approved hairstyles without cutting off their hair, wearing a wig or chemically altering their hair. On the other hand, this should come as no surprise from a predominately Caucasian profession.

“Females with natural hair take strides to style their natural hair in a professional manner when necessary; however, changes to AR 670-1 offer little to no options for females with natural hair,” Jacobs states in the petition.

Regulations or not, the miseducation of many may lead to the oppression of a third of the female population in the army. Caring for black hair is an intense and time consuming process that if not done right would result in severely damaged hair, but it’s often eased by the hairstyles that are banned by the U.S Army.

Since African American hair does not have the same growth formation as Caucasian hair, it is understandable how black hair could get in the way of headgear. By braiding or twisting hair could be an easy solution for that problem. Most African American women that don’t chemically relax their hair have issues with pulling their hair up in styles such as a bun or ponytails because of the fullness and texture of their hair. Depending on the length and fullness of a black woman’s hair it could take up to two hours to straighten their hair using a hot-comb or flat iron. With the time restrictions that branches of military face that is an unreasonable amount of time to spend on your hair.

If hairstyles like ponytails and buns, that are convenient for Caucasian or other races that are known for having fine hair, were banned there would be utter chaos. The United States Army made a huge mistake by putting these restrictions into action. In their world there is no room for individuality only uniformity and it is about time that someone has brought this issue to light. African American women will continue to be disregarded unless a change is made starting here with the U.S Army.