The Cost of Service in the Air Force
Today, I read a blog post from Hidden Barriers.
In it was a quote that drew me to tears.
"For years, women of color have had to consider the damage to their hair as the cost of service in the Air Force."
When I think of myself, an African American living in the United States, this is a deep pain.
A pain that travels through time to the survival of a people who used to be worth 3/5 of a person.
To be told and held to a standard of being only 60% of a human being year after year is degrading and demoralizing.
It's downright discouraging... maddening even!
Bring this pain into the workforce which many did not expect Black people to penetrate and you have more finger-pointing and rejection because you don't look the part, i.e. professional., and therefore cannot work here.
Out of survival, conformity takes place and learned tactics of trying to appear and exude a more European presence in all ways except in lack of melanin drove waves of Black parents to teach their children the way to be successful in this place nicknamed The Land Of The Free.
It doesn't feel so freeing to be told you have to look different than you naturally are to get the job of your dreams...
It doesn't feel so freeing to be told you need to fix your hair because it's unprofessional....
It doesn't feel so freeing to be told you must make your big hair appear smaller because those are the confines you unknowingly agreed to live in when you signed your name on the dotted line.
Serving in the military as a Black woman seems to be a whiplash experience of a modern 3/5 rule unless continued appropriation of something unquestionably familiar walks into each room wearing false attention and respect.
I want my hair to be free...
When my hair is free, I am free.
I want my skin to be free...
When my skin is free, I am free.
I want my sassy attitude to be free...
When my sassiness is free, I am free.
I am part of my culture and my culture is part of me.
To say that I must lose, replace, or tweak my culture so many times that it is no longer recognizable is to deny my culture... and thus deny me.
I am happy the women of the Air Force, especially women of color and particularly African American service members, now have more of opportunities to maintain pieces of their culture... pieces of themselves... and be welcomed to serve.
To read about the United States Air Force’s updated hair regulations, click here. This blog post is not endorsed by and does not reflect the views of the Air Force or the Department of Defense.
Photo source: Hidden Barriers per the note blow:
"Featured Photo provided by the Warrior Braid Project: Captain Susan McLeod in the 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Hill Air Force Base. The initial effort presented, where this photo is from, was to allow women to have a length to their elbows."