(Photo via Navy Times courtesy of Jessica Sims)
Just when we thought we were beginning to see the end of the “Natural Hair” bans in the military, Navy officials have announced a decision to give a 12-year African-American sailor the boot for failing to “obey an order” to cut off her natural hair (pictured above).
Yesterday Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jessica Sims told “Navy Times” that she will be honorably discharged from Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, Illinois after refusing to trim her locs. “The Navy confirmed her administrative separation proceedings on the basis of her hair, which she has been wearing in small, tightly wound dreadlocks twisted into a bun since 2005,” according to the Times. This report comes just one week after the military announced it was easing up on what many have called discriminatory hair guidelines that target African-American hairstyles and now allowing two-strand twists, locs, cornrows and other multiple hanging braids that are otherwise in regulation for length.
So how does one get discharged from the Navy for a hairstyle they’ve been wearing for nearly a decade? According to Sims her hair was never a problem until she got to her current station in Great Lakes. “Before her move to boot camp, she had spent seven years as an instructor at Naval Medicine Training Support Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, The Basic School at Quantico, Virginia, and Field Medical Service School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina,” Navy Times reports. Shortly after she got to Great Lakes in April, Sims chain of command ordered her to cut her hair.
Officials ruled that Sims’ locks were out of regulation and that her bun was too bulky to be worn with a gas mask….even though she maintains her hair conformed to regulations requiring her hair stick out less than two inches from her hair and said she never had a problem wearing safety helmets or gas masks in the past. She made another (great) point that locs can absolutely be appropriate for the workplace: “To me, my natural hair is professional,” she said. “It’s all how you keep yourself up. I could just have a regular bun and not take care of that and it could look unprofessional.” For those reasons Sims decided that, no, she would not comply with the Navy’s repeated requests to cut her hair.
“I don’t think I should be told that I have to straighten my hair in order to be within what they think the regulations are, and I don’t think I should have to cover it up with a wig,” she said. “I am happy that I took the stand that I did…I would do it again if I had to.”
Have you ever changed your hair to be “in compliance” at work or walked away from a job because you refused to alter your hair? Tell us about it.