A black, female sailor has been honorably discharged from the Navy after officials claim she failed to obey an order to cut off her natural hair.
Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jessica Sims has been a member of the Navy for 12 years but was released on Friday for refusing to cut her dreadlocks. Sims has worn her hair in dreadlocks, pulled back into a tight, neat bun, since 2005.
However, according to the Navy Times, officials said her hairstyle went against lawful orders and that her bun was “too bulky to be worn with a gas mask.”
“The past couple weeks, not knowing what the Navy was going to do, if they were going to move forward with the discharge or keep me in, had me in a little limbo,” Sims told the Navy Times. “In the back of my head, I knew that they weren’t going to change, so it was more of just waiting for the date.”
Sims says she was ordered to cut her hair or wear a wig, but she defended her natural hairstyle, saying she believed it did not interfere with work regulations or activities.
“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.
“To me, my natural hair is professional,” she added. “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.”
Sims’ discharge from the Navy follows an announcement made by the Department of Defense claiming it was reviewing natural hairstyles such as dreadlocks, cornrows and twisted braids to be more acceptable among minority women in the military.
However, for Sims, their review did not rule in her favor.
“I am happy that I took the stand that I did. I still stand by it. I would do it again if I had to,” she said. “I won’t be the last one standing up fighting for this issue.”
Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works.