The news of the Army’s updated regulations (AR 670-1) has created an uproar amongst African American Soldiers; however, it shouldn’t come as a surprise since many individuals lack basic knowledge of black hair structure and care, hence the squabble over the updates being seen as racially bias.
Notwithstanding this argument, Black Hair in its natural state has always stirred up controversy or has caused some form of dispute due to a lack of understanding universally as it relates to how it grows, is maintained and or styled. And based on the responses or comments of various members in both the military and civilian sector, it’s no wonder why many have a problem comprehending this whole disagreement on “Natural Hair Styles.”
A Case for Consensus and Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity
“… 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.” ~Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense
The “Natural Hair” debate continues… On April 29, Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense ordered an “All Hands On Deck” review of each branch’s grooming and appearance policies:
1) Revision of Offensive Language (to be completed in 30 days).
2) Hairstyle Policy Review (to be reviewed over the next 90 days).
|Natural Hair Advocate & Natural Hair Veteran
As we know, the first task can be completed fairly easily, as it’s just a matter of revising the terminology; however the second task will take time to “ensure standards are fair and respectful” of the military’s diversified force.
But, here’s my concern as a Natural Hair Advocate… In reviewing the grooming and appearance policies for all service members, we don’t want to lose site of the issue at hand and that’s the banning of certain natural hair styles predominately warn by African American women.
So in making changes to the regulation, we don’t want the inclusiveness of “everybody” to distort the point in question, when the issue that brought this whole review to the forefront was about “Twists (Flat Twists), Braids (Cornrows) and Dreadlocks (Locks).”
Conversations and Demonstrations
“I’ve had a bunch of conversations with sailors and Marines on this, and I hope with some of your input we can get to a good answer on this one.” ~ Ray Mabus, Navy Secretary
I applaud Navy Secretary Mabus and all the other senior leaders directly involved with this decision making process for including the view points of those affected by the current policy, however I believe that conversations alone will not be sufficient enough to enlighten and provide insight for the time, care and maintenance that goes into grooming natural hair.
The old saying of “TELL ME and I forget, TEACH ME and I remember, INVOLVE ME and I learn” would serve as a great training tip to “ensure standards are fair and respectful” “as they pertain to African American women” as Chuck Hagel mentioned in a letter he’d written.
“Black Hair” is still a mystery to many who don’t understand our natural hair or its history; nevertheless, I see this hair debate as a great way to educate and demonstrate that together we can honor and respect our individual cultures in a way that values our diverse society.