Defense Department tells Rep. Marcia Fudge it will review Army's policy on African American women's hairstyles
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday told Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge the Defense Department will review a controversial clampdown on African American women's hairstyles that the U.S. Army imposed in March.
The Army's new restrictions on braids, cornrows, dreadlocks and twists promptedclaims of racial bias from female African American service members and a petition on the White House website that urged that the policy be reconsidered.
Earlier this month, Fudge, of Warrensville Heights, and other female members of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote Hagel a letter that said the rules were racially discriminatory, "targeting soldiers who are women of color with little regard to what is needed to maintain their natural hair."
Her group objected to the use of terms like "unkempt" and "matted" that the standards used when referring to traditional hairstyles worn by women of color.
"The assumption that individuals wearing these hairstyles cannot maintain them in a way that meets the professionalism of Army standards indicates a lack of cultural sensitivity conducive to creating a tolerant environment for minorities," said Fudge's April 10 letter.
Tuesday, Fudge received a letter from Hagel that assured her the Army's new policy on grooming and appearance wasn't meant to "discriminate or disparage" any Service member, but said he has ordered a review of military grooming policies and will "make appropriate adjustments" after examining that review.
Hagel said he has specifically ordered each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces to "review the definitions of authorized and prohibited hairstyles contained in each of their respective policies and revise any offensive language" within the next 30 days.
Hagel also told Fudge that during the next three months, "each Service will review their hairstyle policies 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."
Fudge released a statement that thanked Hagel for his attention to the issue.
"Secretary Hagel's response affirms his commitment to ensuring all individuals are welcomed and can continue to be proud of serving in our Armed Forces," said the statement from Fudge.