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Congresswoman Clarke’s Statement on Review of Military Hairstyles

Brooklyn, N.Y. – Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke released the following statement on the decision by Secretary of Defense Charles Hagel to review guidelines for the hairstyles of service members in each branch of the military.

Congresswoman Clarke, with several of her colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, had contacted Secretary Hagel in April with their concerns about guidelines issued by the Army that would have prohibited many hairstyles worn by African-American women. The guidelines would have limited braids to a 1/4 of an inch wide and not longer than 1/8 of an inch long and prohibited wearing more than two flat braids, among other prohibitions.

“I want to thank Secretary Hagel for ordering a review of these guidelines, which I believe were based on a lack of consideration for the diverse cultures that comprise our military,” said Congresswoman Clarke. “Our armed forces have in many instances provided reasonable accommodations for service members as long as they do not adversely impact readiness.  Prior to the new regulations, ethnic hairstyles did not adversely impact readiness, and I do not believe that they adversely impact readiness now.”

In the letter to the Congressional Black Caucus, Secretary Hagel announced that the review will remove offensive terms from the guidelines on authorized hairstyles and ordered a review of the guidelines for all military branches to provide fair standards for every member of the armed forces.

U.S. Representative Yvette D. Clarke is a member of the House Committee on Small Business, Ethics, and Homeland Security, where she is the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies. She represents many neighborhoods in central and southern Brooklyn, NY which include Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Flatbush, Gerritsen Beach, Madison, Midwood, parts of Park Slope and Flatlands, Prospect Heights, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, Sheepshead Bay, and Windsor Terrace.