U.S. Department of Defense attacks tight-curly hairstyles.

Ethicalego (Kenneth Brooks) discusses current events from a critical thinking perspective rarely expressed elsewhere

By Kenneth Brooks

The U.S Navy discharged a sailor for refusing to cut off her natural tight-curly hair or cover it with a wig. Jessica Sims had been a sailor for 12-years. She wore the same style since 2005 without problems. However, the Department of Defense (DOD) issued new hairstyle regulations in March that mostly centered on the natural tight-curly hair texture styles. It prohibited dreadlocks and twisted, matted hair as unkempt, but allowed cornrows as long as they were conservative. Sims said that her hair swept into a bun met the two-inch regulations and that she could don a gas mask without leakage. Nevertheless, the Navy discharged her for “failing to obey an order when she refused to cut her hair, straighten it, or wear a straight wig.

Dr. Kristie Mitchell is another former member of U.S. Armed Forces troubled by the new DOD hair regulations. She had been a Major in the U.S. Army as a psychiatrist. She reported having to change from neat natural tight-curly hairstyles to those more like straight hairstyles. She complied with the regulations by cutting her hair. However, she found the experience humiliating having to style her hair short like a man, use hazardous chemicals or use hot irons to straighten her hair.  DOD regulations describing “dreadlocks” and “twisted styles as unkempt were particularly demeaning. The restricted hairstyle regulations motivated her to leave military service although she previously found treating military members rewarding.

The DOD regulation describing tight-curly hairstyles as unkempt is an example of the many seemingly innocuous attacks on self-image endured by Americans society classifies a black-race minority. This particular type attack is not new. DOD reintroduced or continued them from the 1960s when military and civilian authorities used them against black-race-labeled Americans.

Those attacks were and are against the self-image of an oppressed group of people and not about the hair in and of itself. Society should not deny opportunity for employment and education to people or general acceptance in society unless they reject their natural physical traits as unattractive.

At one time society considered American females with dark-brown skin coloring and tight-curly hair unattractive unless they straightened their hair with heat or chemicals. Members of oppressed groups that adopt their oppressors’ image for a standard of attractiveness have been demoralized.They are unlikely to achieve personal autonomy. They lose all sense of personal identity when the self-described “white majority” names them its “black minority” foil. A foil is anything that serves by contrast to call attention to another group or item’s good qualities.

The, “I’m black and I’m proud” movement of the 1960s suggested an evolving sense of self-determination among society’s oppressed black-race-labeled Americans. I never accepted “black” to describe my dark-brown skin color, nor for a racial identity. Nevertheless, change requires a beginning. People’s new awareness of their physical attractiveness and dignity was the beginning of change no matter how they labeled it. They expressed their new self-determined identity with natural tight-curly hairstyles in place of artificially straightened hair. American society responded to this self-determined image as an attack on its values. DOD, civilian employers, school authorities and law enforcement treated tight-curly hairstyles as belligerence they must suppress.

Earth’s life forms mostly change slowly over time and not suddenly over weeks. This rule proved true for a high percent of the 1960-70 era claims of “black” pride and self-determination. Many of them yielded to the social and economic pressure, exclusion and threats to employment, and reverted to straight-hairstyles. Others had only donned the new hairstyles as a fad. Not fully convinced of the physical attractiveness of their natural features they returned to straight-hairstyles. The mass reversion to a confused, demoralized view of self by so many people saddened me. I doubted that a second awakening would happen during my lifetime.

Decades later, a growing number of self-determined individuals show ownership of their self-images like those people that persisted from earlier times. They are not a movement. Instead, they are autonomous persons aware of the attractiveness of their physical traits and of nature’s many attractive combinations of human body, skin color, and hair textures.

This month, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered changes in the enforcement of the hair regulations to allow female service members to have a wider range of hairstyles. Perhaps remarks of service members like Sims and Mitchell influenced this decision. Maybe President Obama, Commander in Chief expressed an opinion.

Nevertheless, the Navy found that Sims hair still violated their guidelines and that she had disobeyed an order.

Note: All opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.



'U.S. Department of Defense attacks tight-curly hairstyles.' have 22 comments

  1. August 27, 2014 @ 1:41 pm rocketman

    Well, Mr Brooks doesn’t mention the other side of this coin: were any white sailors required by these new regulations to cut or alter the style of their hair?

    No, not a peep, just some local race-baiting. And we’ve had quite enough about the oppressed black people of America. Tell it to the Obamas, with their $20 million Hawaiian vacation last year. True oppression was experienced by the taxpayers of America who footed that bill under coercion.

    Blacks in America are not oppressed, they are disproportionately uneducated.

    Unemployment rate:
    Black 11.4%
    White 5.3%
    Asian 4.5%

    Median household income:
    Asian $69,000
    White 57,000
    Black 33,000

    High school graduation rate
    Asian 88%
    White 86%
    Black 69%

    This means that almost 1/3 of all African-Americans have little chance to succeed–they are high school dropouts.

    Children in one-parent homes
    Asian 13%
    Black 55%
    White 21%

    Asians keep their families intact, and education is paramount.

    American children must learn, not only academics, but right from wrong, as well as how to speak and how to act respectfully.
    If African-American children do not learn and know those things, they will likely fail as adults. They will likely be poor, angry and looking to blame someone else.

    This is all the absolute truth, And, by the way, this is from Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. There is more to this on the website, but you simply do NOT hear other news analysts and commentators talking about this stuff, and certainly you do not hear Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, Jr, or Barack Obama talking about this stuff. No, no, no, quite the opposite. They provide excuses for all of it–it is white privilege, it is racism, it is oppression of blacks by whitey (apparently Brooks dubious contribution to black culture in Vallejo).

    But O’Reilly speaks the truth, one of the very few in the public square who does so. Much of this was said also by Bill Cosby a couple of years ago–you know, that highly successful black humorist and comic actor. The truth is out there, the solutions are out there, but not in the black leadership that is given the limelight by the truly racist media outlets such as NBC and Democracy Now! Sharpton! A proven liar and charlatan. Jesse Jackson Jr! He hasn’t had an original idea for almost 50 years; it was embarrassing to watch & listen to Jackson the other night on TV–it was a direct flashback to 1966, just an amazing and sad timewarp.


  2. August 27, 2014 @ 1:43 pm Salty Dog

    Oh c’mon Kenneth….your racial identity is threatened/assaulted by hair style regulations? Really? In the armed forces? I thought the primary imperative in the army was to deconstruct the civilian and create a uniform raceless lean mean fighting/killing machine. If you are worried about individual self image, the armed forces may not be the place to be. You may have an issue with valueless bureaucracy and regulations, but a racial thing? ISIS and other enemies of the state don’t care how attractive you look or your skin tone or your self image. But they do insist,on pain of death, that you give up your fakir status in favour of Allah.

    So, I must acknowledge the pant dragging, illiterate alternate English speaking, dreadlocked ,blinged up characters that roam the streets and must consider them for employment for fear of undermining black culture,or worse,being accused of racism? Sorry, unemployable. Whose fault? Guess.


  3. August 27, 2014 @ 8:21 pm Ethicalegoken

    To Rocketman and Salty Dog
    Why not write your own article instead of referring to statistics not relevant to my article and to remarks by and about individuals not mentioned in the article. I refer to females in the article that were educated service members with successful military careers ruined by new DOD regulations regarding their hair styles. So what does the fact that they wear their hairstyle in its natural texture have to do with academic standing or conduct of people with a similar hair texture and styling? Probably you do not realize that your remarks equating dreadlocks to ignorance and criminal activity reflects the racism and attack on self-image reported in my article.
    Regarding the military, I report events from experience and research and not based on the opinion of one person like Bill O’Reilly. U.S. Armed Forces require career people with a strong sense of personal identity, personal responsibility and high intelligence. I joined the military during the 1950s after President Truman desegregated the Armed Forces. I was assigned collateral duties as minority advisor during the early 1960s and my early twenties. A minority advisor was someone the command designated as the person black-race labeled sailors could consult about racism or other problems. He, I, had direct access to the executive officer and commanding officer to resolve a complaint. I had no qualifications for the job except my skin color–all black people think alike–and communications and electronics training. I resented the assignment made from stereotyping and that made me a target for “white” department heads and division officers fear and resentment of my direct access to command. Nevertheless, I did not have an option to refuse. Collectively, those commissioned officers could have assured the Chief of Naval Operation of their ability to lead and to treat all crewmembers fairly and eliminated the need for this extra load on me. The same is true about Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton’s role in American society. They exist in those roles only because elected leaders, presidents, congress members, governors, state legislators, mayors and council members failed to protect the socioeconomic interests of all their constituent regardless of skin color. By doing so, they could have and can easily remove Sharpton and Jackson from the national stage. So, why do you resent the people that try to help resolve the problem instead of persons elected? Ironically, my only real challenge as minority advisor was the complaint of a “white” sailor. He wanted to become a steward, because those duties most closely reflected those of the family business as hotel owners. No matter support from the commanding officer, I could not resolve the issue in his favor. The Navy refused to allow a “white” person to attend its school for stewards, servants to the officers, normally filled by “black” and Filipino sailors before desegregation. Therefore, no matter President Truman’s order, the Navy continued the racist principle that certain work was beneath the dignity of a “white” person while allowing “black” sailors to transfer into different positions. This policy lasted another ten years. Finally, the Navy trained “white” sailors in steward school and they reported to ships where many “white” officers treated them with contempt. I felt sorry for the young men that were the objects of racism and shame for those naval officers. The average person in the Navy during that period did not know of those continuing policies of racism as I didn’t until that incident. They, like you would listen to a Bill O’Reilly report that Truman desegregated the armed forces long before the events I relate and accuse me of race-baiting, whatever that means.


    • August 27, 2014 @ 9:39 pm Bong Hit

      we will either stand together or surely we will hang separately.

      Kenny, when the time comes, i don’t care what my Sargent’s hair looks like. I want to trust her. period.

      do not stress out on this detail, war is so much more than hair styles.


    • August 27, 2014 @ 9:44 pm Salty Dog

      Thank you for your heartfelt personal response and I agree with you on many points that you make. I certainly agree that AA’s have been subjected to pernicious long standing racial slights in this country and certainly in the armed forces. Where I come from (Canada) racial tensions are not even on the radar compared with what occurs here. That is not to say that it doesn’t exist, but somehow a multicultural policy that invites differences seems to be working in favor of social harmony in Canada. Every decade or so my Quebecois cousins want to separate, but so far they realize there is more to be lost than gained.

      All of which causes me to be truly shocked by the level of racial antagonism that exists in this country and this community. Everyday I look out my window and see shopping carts and bicycles go by manned by young and old AA’s, frequently dreadlocked youth with pants hardly covering underwear, sullen looks and a vocabulary that bares little resemblance to English. I have tried to reach out and to try and understand but usually find a gulf of distrust that is completely foreign in my home country. I understand the extreme economic plight many are experiencing. What I don’t understand is the disconnect between a need for cultural identity(?) and those elusive factors that lead to jobs, economic security and dreams fulfilled.

      Fox news is not my primary source and Bill O’Reilly is not the last word in balanced. But in this case, I agree with his and Bill Cosby’s assessment of the AA condition. Gaining a quality education and from that,meaningful employment and a strong family unit are the prerequisites to reduce and eliminate the racial disharmony in my opinion.

      So, while I take your point about discriminatory practices in the armed forces as another racial slight/injustice at this late date, it seems to me that hair regulations in the armed forces don’t hold a candle to the sorry state of affairs we see each day on our local streets…affairs that I view with great empathy and sadness. It doesn’t need to be this way.


    • August 27, 2014 @ 10:14 pm rocketman

      Mr. Brooks, I do not feel the need to confine my comments to the limitations of your column. Clearly your point of view is different from that of Bill O’Reilly–and different mine, for that matter. And different from many others as well. But understand that there are a lot of inconvenient truths in and about this country, and some number of them are truths about the African-American experience and how it came to be what it has been and as it remains today for too many. And those inconvenient truths are in stark contrast with the race hustlers who have kept this country mired in the early 1960s for 50 years.

      Well, this is the 21st century, not 1964 or 1967 or 1968. And certainly NOT 1860. We–and the world–have moved on.



    • August 28, 2014 @ 5:11 am rocketman

      Well, this was predictable–that mentioning Bill O’Reilly would cause more misdirection and disinformation to be produced. OK, let’s go back to those statistics that O’Reilly presented. They ALL came from Federal government agencies and were NOT the concocted ‘opinion’ of Bill O’Reilly. So take up your complaints about those statistics with Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and all the rest of Obama’s Federal departmental & agency appointments. Geez, get a GRIP!

      The truth remains the truth regardless of the misdirection and disinformation. And it therefore remains terribly inconvenient for the hucksters and charlatans.

      And one more thing–this has nothing to do with Bill O’Reilly, except that more truth will emanate from that media pundit than from the likes of Rachel Maddow (laughable & Jon Stewart (laughable and properly on the Comedy Channel).

      You will NEVER hear such truth from Sharpton. And Jesse Jackson, Jr, may occasionally tiptoe around such truths, but quickly reverts to 1965. But the courage of Rosa Parks in Jim Crow Alabama does NOT serve to explain or justify the spiritual violence of gangsta’ rap.

      And it does NOT serve to justify the image of the beautiful young black woman I saw on a street in downtown Vallejo wearing a white T-shirt with large black lettering on the front that read Call Me BITCH!


  4. August 27, 2014 @ 10:36 pm Salty Dog

    A thought about paradigm change

    When I decided to return to university at the ripe old age of 34, a number of my fellow students were First Nations- Haida Carrier, Coast Salish and Haida Guai to name a few. In 1984, they were the vanguard of native youth selected by and sent by the band elders. They were tentative and scared being in a strange or at least, unfamiliar “white” culture. Almost as scared as I was, an aging student competing with bright youth. But, we muddled through.

    Some if those students became lawyers and many now hold positions of high authority not only in native society but in general society also. It was not easy for them to break out of/debunk native stereotypes. Now, they play a role in finalizing treaty agreements and the return of native lands “stolen” at a time when taking land was the white man’s prerogative.

    The elders were wise enough to understand that bad native PR and poltical impotency was not an overnight fix but rather a generational strategy to protect native culture that simply involved higher education through the existing educational structure, not to dilute or change culture but to make it more potent .

    Perhaps it is time for a paradym change away from AA, all too often portrayed as the hapless victim to AA the leaders in positive social change.


  5. August 28, 2014 @ 8:12 am Bong Hit

    The “reverand” Sharpton, the “reverand” Jackson, criminals in Ferguson Mo., Kenneth Brooks and all the other assorted players of the race card game are desperately trying to shift national focus away from the disaster of black youth. Every liberal media outlet has tried in vain to paint up another portrait of a “young man, headed for college”, a “good boy”, an “unarmed youth”.

    The truth is black crime is out of control. From black males punching random citizens on the streets of America to roving bands of black flash mob robberies, there is simply no way for the race baiters to hide the fact that the black communities throughout the United States and the world and in crisis. The race baiters want you to believe that YOU are responsible for this animalistic behavior. It’s someone else’s fault, according to the black racists and self loathing whites, that black people throughout the world are not stepping up to the 21st century. YOU! YOUR FAULT!

    It’s time to start telling the truth no matter the consequences. If there is excessive police force used on a regular basis it must be dealt with. If someone complains about the military regulation on hair cuts then discharge them with no benefits. If there are cultural failures on a massive scale these must be dealt with as well. No more politically correct beating around the bush.


  6. August 29, 2014 @ 9:01 am GW

    An opinion is just that, ones personal opinion, but to comment and make it an issue with racial overtones about regulation haircuts and personal grooming standards for members of the various branches of our Services is reaching, really reaching….
    Despite what people want to believe, the military with all its branches is a Dictatorship and not a Republic….
    Why is a certain Navy regulation, in this particular case the length of hair and how to wear it, even opinion worthy? …and why do we discuss, as civilians, that Americans who SERVE, some of them for years as a career path, become exempt from those regulations because their hair is a certain texture?

    Every person feeling the pull of serving should be aware that as a member of the TEAM, individuality is discouraged! When each and every one of them signed up, they were made aware of what is to come, they are stripped of individuality by discarding personal clothing, getting the dreaded haircut, high and tight or off altogether……. you have left behind your civilian life style for whatever length you have signed up for…. as we do not have a draft….. and are now becoming a member of the TEAM.

    If you disagree with any of the established and plentiful regulations, do not join this group of individuals who have to act as a team in order to accomplish a certain job 24/7 ……and if you are unwilling to accept those restrictions and intrusions into your personal sphere that you enjoyed as a civilian, including the length of your hair …..or in what style it can be worn, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps. etc are obviously not your cup of tea.

    As with all regulation old and new in any branch of the service, certain standards are to be unconditionally embraced, because???

    Well hate to tell those who believe they can change that TEAM SPIRIT, there is no REASON to encourage individuality just SOP, you checked being an individual at the gate, live with it.

    As the wife of a retired 30 year active duty individual, I can understand that looking the same as every one else with a hairstyle not always becoming, can be a challenge. However as troops in the field and not at a desk assignment will attest to there are reasons why elaborate hairstyles and hair fashion statements are discouraged, especially during times of strive…….

    For whatever reason, I have a sneaking suspicion that there is much more to this story…..
    After a 12 years investment in a job and most likely in a leadership capacity, why would individuality and hairstyle regulations be the sole reason for leaving it all behind?


  7. August 29, 2014 @ 9:05 pm Bravo Delta

    “As depicted in the photos that Petty Officer Sims provided, you can clearly see the size of the bun that she wears her hair in is out of regulation,” he said. “Bulky hair makes it difficult to wear headgear and safety equipment like a gas mask, hard hat or firefighting ensemble properly.”

    The discharge was not about appearance. It was about safety.


    • August 31, 2014 @ 10:36 am rocketman

      What is it other than sheer arrogance and disrespect for herself that would lead this black woman to let herself be kicked out of the Navy over this? The hair thing is simply a personal affectation and is not imbued with protection because of her blackness or because of a history of slavery 200 years ago. It is arrogance and racism, folks, and nothing else.


  8. September 13, 2014 @ 10:27 am rocketman

    Bill O’Reilly said nothing about hairstyles in the Navy. The bare statistics, all originating with Federal government agencies that are intent on keeping track of these things with a racial breakdown, came from O’Reilly’s TV show. My only only point in bringing up O’Reilly was only that Fox News is the most likely media outlet that will provide such information–you are VERY unlikely to see that information presented on MSNBC or NBC or CBS. CNN might deliver such a report but that might be a stretch.

    So I wish Mr. Brooks would NOT conflate O’Reilly and Fox News as a source of Federal government demographic statistics with opinions about the Navy policy and hair styles. Oh, I knew with some certainty that the mere mention of Bill O’Reilly’s name would get a liberal Progressive like Brooks bent out of shape and into a false narrative–it is predictable.

    But you should listen to yourself, Mr. Brooks. A successful career Navy officer, a black woman, had her career ruined by hair style regulations! Oh, really! Why would she permit that to occur?

    And what’s next? Black soldiers refusing to wear regulation uniforms, preferring instead the huge baggy, sagging pants that have to be held up with one hand while their butt crack and underwear are proudly displayed, part of the black pride movement no doubt as a consequence of slavery and Jim Crow. Oh, that’s right–NO blacks who wear this idiotic garb lived as slaves–not even close–or under Jim Crow. Next excuse!

    People with a brain refer to it as the Clown Show.

    And I still see nothing about how the hairstyle policy affected WHITE sailors.


  9. September 14, 2014 @ 9:50 pm Susan

    So glad I left this dump. I have yet to see a black person in this wretched wasteland that can raise their point of view without being accused of race baiting. It just shows an unnatural preoccupation with all things white. If it isn’t about you, it isn’t valid, right? What you need to do is leave your little bubble and go talk this same trash to well-to-do educated black people in major metropolitan areas such as New York and DC and maybe even Houston and see how far it gets you. Oh that’s right, well-to-do educated black people don’t exist, unless they received some kind of hand outs right? White people are historically by far the biggest recipients of handouts ever. 🙂


    • September 15, 2014 @ 4:35 am Salty Dog

      So glad I left this dump. I have yet to see a white person in this wretched wasteland that can raise their point of view without being accused of race baiting. It just shows an unnatural preoccupation with all things black. If it isn’t about you, it isn’t valid, right? What you need to do is leave your little bubble and go talk this same trash to well-to-do educated white people in major metropolitan areas such as New York and DC and maybe even Houston and see how far it gets you. Oh that’s right, well-to-do educated white people don’t exist, unless they received some kind of hand outs right? Black people are historically by far the biggest recipients of handouts ever. 🙂

      Hmmmmm….works quite well both ways, doesn’t it.


      • September 17, 2014 @ 4:05 pm Susan

        “Hmmmmm….works quite well both ways, doesn’t it.”

        Hahahahahah and LOL….nope. You’re ability to cut and paste though is quite remarkable.


        • September 17, 2014 @ 4:07 pm Susan

          I meant ‘your’ not ‘you’re’…see you got me all flustered with your genius.


          • September 17, 2014 @ 4:25 pm Susan

            Either way you make a good point, Mr. Salty Dog. Generalizations are ridiculous, aren’t they? I’m not saying that all white people have benefited from set-asides and entitlement, just like I’m not saying that all white people are genuinely lazy and selfish. What I DO notice from living in that impoverished town is that I don’t see a big difference in the white population from what you say about the black folks. If all you can afford to live around is poor and uneducated people who happen to be black, what does that say about you and your choices? If all you have ever experienced is black people who are ignorant and on some type of welfare, then you really need to open your eyes and look around. Turn off the television and get out in the world. It’s so easy to sit up on social media while looking at Fox News or MSNBC and feel that it’s alright to be self-righteous and insensitive.

  10. September 15, 2014 @ 8:44 am rocketman

    This situation with Ray Rice and the NFL is moving in interesting directions. Another black player, supposedly the best running back in the league, was just indicted for child abuse. The guy’s excuse is that he was raised that way–presumably that means he was beaten up and whipped by HIS father.

    But the important thing here is that a mainstream media pundit asked this question: Does the NFL have a culture problem. A CULTURE problem. Well of COURSE it does–the problem with BLACK CULTURE


  11. September 16, 2014 @ 10:11 am Bong Hit

    Pro sports and the NFL in particular may have a lot to do with the obscene violence that drives young black males today. Somewhere along the way the NFL dropped the concept of sportsmanship and appropriate behavior on the field of play. When you watch black NFL players today you can see violent antics and behaviors after the whistle. This is a poison for young, impressionable, fatherless black males to idolize.

    The best thing the black community can do for it’s children is turn the TV off. Don’t encourage the kids to watch this goofball display. Don’t watch it yourself, don’t buy the products that their advertisers are peddling. Cut the legs out from under the NFL and force them to bring back good sportsmanship and quality role models.


  12. September 17, 2014 @ 4:09 pm Bitterman

    Always nice to enter a place where civil discourse and discussion is welcomed by such “tolerant” people on this site. Sarcasm noted.


  13. September 17, 2014 @ 4:48 pm Publicus

    Hey! I don’t live in Vallejo because I can’t afford to live anywhere else. I can. But I happen to like the views, the climate, my little historic house, the proximity to great shopping and activities just a 15 minute drive away or world class San Francisco a glorious ferry ride. I happen to hate the fog west of Vallejo and the heat east of Vallejo. You say that you do not see a big difference in this “impoverished town” between the white population and the black population. You say “if all you can afford to live around is poor and uneducated people who happen to be black, what does that say about you and your choices?” I have neighbors (white) who have gone to the most prestigious universities in the world and neighbors (black) who are screaming obscenities at the top of their lungs, passing stuff into cars that stop for two seconds and cranking their misogynistic music up to 100 db. What does that say about me?? It says I have a problem with bad behavior, not race….


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