Black female soldiers are protesting the U.S. Army's new appearance and grooming regulations for unfairly targeting their hair texture and styles.
According to the recently released Army Regulation 670-1, women soldiers are prohibited from wearing twists, locs and multiple braids and cornrows that are larger than a quarter of an inch.
Twists, locs and other unauthorized hairstyles will either need to be concealed with weaves or wigs or removed.
Lt. Col. S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, released a statement explaining that acceptable hairstyles were "neat and conservative" and are "expected to fit snugly and comfortably" in headgear.
Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs of the Georgia National Guard has organized a petition on the White House, appealing the Obama administration to "allow professional ethnic hairstyles."
"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," wrote Jacobs in the petition, adding that the policy needs to allow for "neat and maintained" natural hairstyles.
"These new changes are racially biased and the lack of regard for ethnic hair is apparent," she said.
More than 7,000 signatures have signed the petition so far, although at least 100,000 signatures are required for the White House to respond.
A Pew study revealed in 2012 that Black women, including Black Hispanics, represent more more than 31 percent of all women in the military. Jacobs also pointed out that 36 percent of U.S. females claimed they "are natural, or refrain form chemically processing their hair" as of 2011, a number that research firm Mintel also reported.
“Most Black women, their hair doesn’t grow straight down, it grows out,” Jacobs told Army Times.
“I’m disappointed to see the Army, rather than inform themselves on how Black people wear their hair, they’ve white-washed it all.”
An Army veteran who chose not reveal her identity told Al Jazeera news that most Black women do not have the hair tools required to straighten their hair, while braids have a tendency to put a lot of stress and strain on their hair.
"I don't think they see the health behind it," she said.
"When you're in Iraq, these hairstyles serve the purpose to protect you."
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(Photo: Courtesy of US Army)
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