Remember that one U.S. Army regulation regarding African-American women and their hair? The rule AR670-1 prohibits women from wearing their hair in dreadlocks, twists larger than a quarter of an inch in diameter, and other natural hairstyles that are deemed “unkempt.”
The perceived racist regulations were not stated without a list of alternatives, though. The Army provided women with options of getting their hair straightened, permed, micro-braided, cornrowed, or wearing a wig–all of which take added time and money and speak to the effect of Eurocentric beauty standards being unfairly forced onto black women.
Well, television personality Jessica Williams took jabs at the regulation on The Daily Show with a segment called “Operation Black Hair,” and it’s pretty hilarious. Williams playfully directed her message towards “white people,” shedding light on all the factors that go into keeping “black hair.” And to make sure someone got the message, she even made Lieutenant Commander Thomas Cheever put on a wig and gas mask to see how he liked the new regulation. He wasn’t too comfortable, to say the least.
The Army has moved forward with the rule, but people are fighting back. Female members of the Congressional Black Caucus recently wrote a letter to the Department of Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, urging him to reconsider the rule and rethink the racist undertone it sends:
…The use of words like “unkempt” and “matted” when referring to traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are offensive and biased. 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 of minorities.
Watch Jessica Williams’ segment on The Daily Show to see what she has to say about it.