Crown Heights

Clarke: Pentagon’s new hair policy respects diversity

Congresswoman praises military’s about-face

August 22, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke charged that the military’s policy on hairstyles was discriminatory against African-Americans. She praised the policy change recently announced by U.S. Defense Secretary Charles Hagel. AP photo
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The military has done an about-face on its controversial policy governing hairstyles worn by troops and U.S. Rep. Yvette Clarke is praising the change as a move that respects the diversity of the men and women in uniform.

“The hairstyle guidelines failed to account for the diversity of our armed forces, in which 14 percent of active duty service members are women, a figure that will certainly increase in the future,” Clarke said. “I want to thank Secretary Hagel for reversing these guidelines, which would have effectively excluded thousands of women from the armed forces based on their ethnicity.”

Clarke (D-Central Brooklyn) was one of several lawmakers in the Congressional Black Congress (CBC) who pushed the Pentagon to reverse its policy banning long braids, dreadlocks, cornrows and other hairstyles favored by African-American women.

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Clarke charged that the policy was discriminatory.

The Pentagon’s reversal happened quickly, within the space of a few months.

The policy prohibiting such hairstyles as dreadlocks, long braids, and cornrows was first announced in March. A month later, Hagel agreed to review the guidelines after Clarke and other members of the CBC contacted him and outlined their concerns about the message the policy was sending.

The Pentagon announced the policy change on Aug. 13. reported that the policy also came under fire for using derogatory language in describing the banned hairstyles, terms such as ‘matted” and “unkempt.”

In addition to members of congress, members of the military also raised objections to the policy, according to Sgt. Jasmine Jacobs, a member of the Georgia National Guard, started a petition drive, writing that the policy was “racially biased.”

In a letter to U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the chairman of the CBC, Hagel wrote that he had directed each branch of the military to review its policy and that “each service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting our military requirements.”


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