"To go through the natural hair journey, and come to terms with the fact that you're beautiful the way you naturally are, and then an entire organisation wants you to cover up all that, makes you doubt yourself."
So says Sergeant Jasmine Jacobs, of the Georgia National Guard, originator of a petition demanding the repeal of US Army Regulation 670-1, which updated the forces' grooming standards. Here's what the rules say about hairstyles.
* Braids are authorised, but they "must be of uniform dimension, small in diameter (approximately 1/4 inch), and "show no more than 1/8 inch of scalp between the braids".
* Cornrows must also be 1/4 inch in dimension with no more than 1/8 inch of scalp showing. Cornrows can be braided or rolled, but not twisted. Only one style can be worn at once.
* Any unkempt or matted braids or cornrows are considered dreadlocks and are not authorized.
* Hair's bulk that "exceeds more than 2 inches from the scalp" is forbidden, and short hair must be longer than a quarter-inch from the scalp.
Need us to draw you a picture? Here it is, straight from the Army Manual for the Functionally Illiterate.
Sgt. Jacobs feels put upon because she "no longer has options for [her] natural hair care." She told an interviewer, "I would have had to constantly be putting on a wig or figuring how to get weave sown into or glued into my hair, because none of my natural hair styles were authorized any longer."
What's a black girl to do?! "Where is a soldier in the field supposed to get her weave done?" asks Lori Tharps, co-author of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. And of course that's the root of the complaint. While the regulations apply to all soldiers -- regardless of race, colour or creed -- Sgt. Jacobs called them "racially-biased", using the hair of honkey women as a baseline. ["hairline", surely! Ed.] Apparently the Army hasn't noticed that black hair, which grows out rather than down and is very curly, is difficult to pull into a bun or wear loose in an even manner, styles which are OKed by the new guidelines.
Inevitably, the usual suspects have accused the Army of racism. "These updated regulations [are] very discriminatory," says Congresswoman Barbara Lee -- black, female, Democrat, California. Ms Lee's own hairstyle (see official picture) would probably pass muster, but, she told BBC News, "They used words such as 'unkempt' and 'matted' when referring to traditional hairstyles worn by women of colour."
Maybe so, Walt says, but they didn't use the N-word... "nappy". All the same, the backlash from the Volvo liberals and lamestream media led Defense Secretary Chuck "5-for-1" Hagel to call for a policy review. At the end of April he gave military leaders three months to "evaluate comprehensive regulations as they pertain to black women".
And in May the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the defence spending bill, calling for a review of the policy. Walt predicts the return of the afro, as America continues to celebrate diversity.