Monday, August 17, 2009

US Air Force Discrimination

I received an email from Biany, about a regulation that US Air Force has, regarding dress code, that clearly discriminates against women wearing their hair in a dreadlocks / loc'd style, or in a short afro style. Oddly enough, I am not surprised. But non the less - this is unacceptable! Please read Biany's email below and find out how you can help stop this type of discrimination from continuing.

Greetings Sister Karen:

I am one of your biggest fans. I have been following your website and blog for months. Thank you for this great avenue for women of color to share their thoughts and celebrate their natural hair. I was hoping that you can share this link below to friends of your blog/website One of my close friends who is in the US Air Force is being forced to chop her locks and relax her hair. We are asking everyone we know to sign this petition and also send a letter to your state representatives. Here is a brief synopsis of the matter at hand. Please share with everyone you know. Thank you in advance for your support!

It has come to my attention that the United States Air Force has a regulation, AFI36-2903 DRESS AND PERSONAL APPEARANCE OF AIR FORCE PERSONNEL, which in part, discriminates against African-American women serving in the Air Force. The code was recently updated to include a bans on a common natural African-American hairstyle, which the Air Force has called "dreadlocks". Female personnel with neat, clean, professional well-kept hair are being forced to choose between cutting their hair and treating it with chemicals to conform with this regulation which I feel unfairly and unnecessarily discriminates against African-Americans. The regulation itself does not define "dreadlocks". This leaves women with hair that is in no means a distraction or a detriment to their duties, subject to disciplinary action.

Copy and Paste the link below:

Peace & Blessings,



  1. So basically, in order to be employed via the Air Force you would have to alter yourself.

    *Think on that a moment, alter yourself*

    That being said, is there any other race that has to conform ? no unless you are a person with color.

    Straight out discrimination.

  2. Very interesting. There are so many unwritten rules regarding natural hair and black women, but this "written" one is extremely shocking and unnecessary.

  3. i'd like to see the actual code before i make a decision on how i feel about it.

  4. I am in the Air force and have natural hair. My hair is not locked, but I did get a lot of negativity and "Are you allowed to do that?" when I first chopped off my hair. I read the reg and saw the blurb about the locs. I have a TWA right now and no one has said anything about it to me since I've been at my new base. That might be because I am the only African American female here.
    With that being said, instead of cutting and relaxing her hair, maybe she could wear a wig while she's in uniform (wigs are allowed in uniform). That way, she still maintains a "professional" image and her hair is still in the locs. I know it's not exactly fair that we need to alter our appearance when every other race doesn't, but for now that's just the way it is.
    I do think the petition is a good idea to get the ball rolling to change this regulation.

  5. Color me unsurprised. Doesn't make it right though.

  6. @Anon

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    I want to sign the petition, but I'm Canadian...

    But because I have such a problem with this 'code', I've posted it on my facebook page and a black site I frequent.

  7. I googled the regulation and read it. It says dreadlocks are not allowed. It doesn't say other natural styles (including twists, twas, etc.) are not allowed. When you choose to be in the military, you voluntarily choose to live under different standards than everyone else.
    It's disappointing they don't allow locs, but there are other options, natural options, that do not require a relaxer in the hair.

  8. Hi Deborah,

    I can appreciate that people will have different opinions. The world would be boring if we all had the same thoughts, at the same time - all the time. But I am a little sadden with the possibility that people think it is ok to discriminate against people with dreadlocks. Dreadlocks / loc's for me and and a lot of other people has nothing to do with the latest style of fad. It is a way to embrace of ourselves and our culture. So for someone just to say... O' well, you can just cut your dreads and wear some other style to fit in - is a little crazy. Any type of racism for any reason, is not ok. Dreadlocks / loc's can look and be styled to be just as professional as any other hair style. The only reason for this regulation - is ignorance, and an inability to accepted the difference in other cultures. And that is not ok.

    *FYI: My source said that her cousin, who is in the US Air Force, has loc's and even when she is forced to cut her hair - she was told that a TWA (tiny winy afro) is also not acceptable. It sounds like the sistah's are getting the short end of the stick, when it comes to acceptance.

  9. I am in the Air Force, and all women must make a compromise with regards to hair standards. Like another person mentioned, when you choose to join something like the military, something that is a subculture, you must make sacrifices. Accept your responsibility as a member of the USAF and understand that there are reasons for our regulations. AFI 36-2903 is the regulation and it states...

    Hair Style will be styled to present a professional appearance. Allow the wear of
    conservative hairpins,combs, headbands, elastic
    bands and barrettes. Hair pins and bands must match hair color. Long hair will be secured with no loose end. Bangs, if worn, will not touch the eyebrows. Braids, micro-braids and cornrows
    are authorized. However, must be solid color similar to the individual's hair color; conservative and not present a faddish appearance.

    Will not be worn in an extreme or fad style or violate safety requirements. Extend below
    any side of an invisible line drawn parallel to the ground at the bottom edge of the
    shirt collar regardless of length. Length will not be excessive. Include hair ornaments such as ribbons, beads, jeweled pins, or hair scrunchy. May not have shaved heads, military high-and-tight or flat top haircuts. Will not prevent proper wear of headgear, including helmet
    or chemical mask. Synthetic hair not authorized when not permitted by safety/mission requirements. Dreadlocks are not authorized.
    NOTE: Minimum length/bulk required is 1 inch not to exceed 3 inches in bulk and will not prevent proper wear of headgear, including helmet or chemical mask.

  10. I am also in the USAF and have natural hair...the reg does discriminate against locs (wrong) but doesn't against other natural styles (as deborah mentioned). I personally wear my hair in a bun or ponytail but I've seen sistas with twists and low cuts. A woman, however, can not shave her head, so perhaps that's where the misinterpretation of "no TWAs" comes in (and that's for all races btw). I don't know specifically why the regs specify no locs but I do want to point out that there are other criteria that everyone must meet, which may make it a bit tougher for people with locs. For instance, hair can be no bigger than 2" in bulk (when in a type of up do) and can't come past our collar when standing at attention...and that poses problems for anyone with long, thick hair...not just locs...and remember that this all must fit under whatever cover you're wearing for that particular uniform...again, I'm just speculating as to why it could be, not condoning.

    As someone pointed out, for right or wrong, when you join the military, you are giving up a part of your least for the time that you serve. And though it's definitely not always practiced, the "idea" is that once we put on the uniform, we are "supposed" to look the's a disadvantage for us if the enemy can tell us apart or if someone "stands out"...they can become a target.

    Anyway, as I said, I definitely do not condone discrimination and even though I proudly serve, I know that the military is not without faults and needs some changing...but for general purposes, I hope I've helped shed some light on some of the standards and regs that we have to adhere to, and why we it or not :-/

  11. Thank you for all the great comments and opinions. It is good to hear from everyone about what your thoughts are. I also appreciate the women that are actually in the Air Force, voicing their thoughts on the regulations that they follow. It definitely is a heavy choice to give up who you are to confirm to the US Air Force dress code standards. For some people the choice is easier than it is for others. As a free spirit, the process is foreign to me. I don’t know if that is something I could ever understand.

    But everyone has different lives; goals and things that make them feel like a productive member in the world. It’s a lot to think about. That being said, I still hope that the Air Force will think about allowing people to be themselves, will still thinking of how to have a uniform look in the end. I am sure that a person can express themselves freely on their own time, but put himself or herself together to have a certain uniform look, will on duty.

    But what do I know... :-). Just hopeful thinking on my part. I just wish that it didn’t have to be such a conforming environment. Although it’s not for me, I want to respect those that have chosen this path.

  12. Before I forget, I wanted to add a quote from my original source of this information. Thank you Bianny for bringing this to attention. Here is a direct quote from her:

    "My girlfriend is expected to cut off her locs ASAP, but she can't rock her natural (short) 'fro. So she cannot have it too short (like Solange's new style) because it is also not acceptable. Gosh! This is so unfortunate. To think of all the strides we have made and now this. While it may not affect people like me who are not in the military; it actually says a lot about how Black beauty continues to be devalued and perceived as ugly in this country."

  13. Thank you for shedding light on this problem Karen. I am former US Air Force, and I received ill treatment at the hand of ignorance for years. Black hair has always been a problem in the branch. I hated it then, as it was one reason I decided to separate! Hmph, I signed that petition! Thank you again!


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