The $1.1 trillion ‘cromnibus’ spending bill that Congress will vote on this week deals with weighty matters of war and peace, health and immigration - and hair styles?
Tucked into the defense appropriations portion of the 1,600-plus-page bill is a directive for the secretary of defense – currently Chuck Hagel – to report to congressional defense committees on how the Pentagon is doing in carrying out revised grooming standards after minority female service members complained that descriptions of certain hair styles were ‘offensive and discriminatory.’
‘After conducting a review, the Secretary of Defense issued new guidelines for grooming policies to specifically address concerns that certain grooming policies discriminate against African-American service members with natural hairstyles,’ the bill states in the ‘Female Servicemember Grooming Standards’ section on Page 15 of the Department of Defense Appropriations division of the measure.
‘The Army, Navy, and Air Force have authorized additional hairstyles and removed the terms found offensive from the Service grooming policies,’ the bill adds. ‘The Secretary of Defense is directed to provide a report to the congressional defense committees detailing the Services’ revised grooming standards and their implementation, including how revised standards addressed the concerns raised above, no later than 120 day after the enactment of this Act.’
The Pentagon reviewed its hairstyle regulations after several female African-American service members and the Congressional Black Caucus complained about the Army’s descriptions of the way African-American female soldiers may and may not wear their hair.
The CBC wrote Hagel in April and pointed out that ‘the use of words like ‘unkempt’ and ‘matted’ when referring to traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are offensive and biased.’
Hagel responded in a letter to black caucus Chair Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, later that month that the Army’s grooming policy wasn’t meant to discriminate against or offend African-American women.
He said each military branch would review their hair style policies for African-American women to ‘ensure standards are fair and respectful of our diverse force, while also meeting our military services’ requirements.’
Once the House and Senate pass the massive spending bill and President Barack Obama signs it into law, the ‘cromnibus’ apparently intends to hold Hagel to his word on hair.