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Reconsider Army regulation barring natural hairstyles, Congressional Black Caucus women urge

  • McClatchy Washington Bureau
  • Published Thursday, April 10, 2014, at 3:59 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, April 11, 2014, at 5:52 a.m.

The Congressional Black Caucus’ 16 women members Friday sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, urging him to reconsider the impact of a regulation that makes natural hairstyles traditionally worn by minority women as unauthorized.

The policy, said Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, “has been seen as offensive and discriminatory to many minority women serving in our Armed Forces.”

Army Col. Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, promised a response.

"The (Defense) Department has received the letter from the Congressional Black Caucus, and will respond promptly and directly to them," Warren told McClatchy. "We appreciate their concerns regarding this issue."

The letter notes that Army officials have responded to criticism of the regulation by saying it applies to all soldiers regardless of race, and that the rule is meant to protect safety.

“However,” the letter pointed out, “the use of words like ‘unkempt’ and ‘matted’ when referring to traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are offensive and biased.”

Such assumptions, the letter said, suggests that those with such hairstyles cannot maintain them in a professional way. Such thinking, the letter said, “indicates a lack of cultural sensitivity conducive to creating a tolerant environment for minorities.”

       -- David Lightman and James Rosen contributed.

 

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