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May 8, 2014

Pentagon to review policies on hairstyles

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Tuesday that the military will review controversial hair-grooming policies that led some African American women to accuse the Army of racial bias.

Guidelines released in late March, known as Army Regulation 670-1, included rules that described as "unauthorized " some natural hairstyles popular among black women, including twists and certain types of braids.

The backlash included a White House petition asking the Army to reconsider the ban and a letter from black female lawmakers to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon's press secretary, announced the review at a regular briefing, telling reporters: "Secretary Hagel . . . sent a letter to the Hill today directing the deputy secretary of defense to work with the service secretaries and military chiefs to review their respective policies to address the issues raised by members of Congress about grooming standards, particularly for African American females. So within the next 30 days, each service will review the definitions of authorized and prohibited hairstyles contained in each of their respective policies and revise any offensive language."

He added that "during the next three months, each service will review their hairstyle policies as they pertain to African American women to ensure standards are fair and respectful of our diverse force while also meeting our military services' requirements."

Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, issued a statement praising Hagel's "thoughtful response to the concerns of Members of the Congressional Black Caucus and to many women of color currently serving in our Armed Forces. Secretary Hagel's response affirms his commitment to ensuring all individuals are welcomed and can continue to be proud of serving in our Armed Forces."

Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs, who serves in the Army National Guard and who started the White House petition that gathered more than 16,000 signatures, said, "This is empowering for women in the military," she said.

 

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