Navy Discharges Woman Who Refused to Change Her Natural Hair

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Navy Discharges Woman Who Refused to Change Her Natural Hair

Jessica Sims doesn’t believe that she should have to straighten her hair in order to serve our country.

Published September 1, 2016

Another day, another attack on a Black woman’s hair.

This time the victim was Jessica Sims, an ex-Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class and sailor of 12 years who was recently booted from Navy when she refused to change her locs hairstyle. 

 

According to the Navy Times, Sims, who has been wearing her locs in a neat tight bun since 2005, did not agree with her superiors’ assessment that her hair was out of regulation and that her bun was too bulky to be worn with a gas mask.

Since telling them in early August that she wasn’t going to cut her hair, she claims that she has been in “limbo.”

“For the past couple weeks, not knowing what the Navy was going to do, if they were going to move forward with the discharge or keep me in, had me in a little limbo," Sims told the Navy Times.  

“In the back of my head I knew that they weren't going to change, so it was more of just waiting for the date,” she added.

Sims, who over the years has worked at the prestigious Quantico and other training facilities around the country, said that her hair has never been an issue until she checked into a new recruitment training center in Great Lakes, Illinois. She is adamant that she’s being racially discriminated against.

"I don't think I should be told that I have to straighten my hair in order to be within what they think the regulations are, and I don't think I should have to cover it up with a wig,” she stressed.

Chief of Naval Personnel spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello said Sims will be discharged for “disobeying a lawful order.”

“(Assistant Navy Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Juan) Garcia and (Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. Bill) Moran have completed their review and are more than satisfied that the chain of command handled this case by the book,” Servello said.

Sims’s honorable discharge comes a week after the Department of Defense said they would better accommodate dreadlocks, cornrows, twists and other popular natural hairstyles that Black female officers wear. They’ve even said they will review their policies and possibly make adjustments.

Unfortunately for Sims, those promises of inclusion and cultural sensitivity really don’t mean much. But in the end, despite being given numerous changes to comply, Sims believes she did the most authentic thing she could.

“I am happy that I took the stand that I did," she said. “I still stand by it. I would do it again if I had to.”

And she’s clear that her stance will not be in vain.

“I won't be the last one standing up fighting for this issue. I have faith in our junior sailors because they are the future of our Navy, and the majority of them were supporting the right thing,” Sims concluded.

Written by Kellee Terrell

(Photo: Jupiterimages/Getty Images)

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