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Fashion and Intolerance: Misappropriation of the War Bonnet and Mainstream Anger

by Frederick White

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This article addresses the ‘fashionable’ misappropriation of the war bonnet in popular culture and the backlash Native Americans endure for speaking against that misuse. Celebrities, musicians, and models don the headdress in public venues and evoke the ire of Native Americans who respond accordingly but then receive volatile backlash for their responses. Mainstream Americans are incensed at Native Americans for rebuking them and claiming the headdress as sacred regalia. The results, not just in the United States but around the world, are the wrath and racist rants of those who refuse to acknowledge Native American cultural privilege to the war bonnet. There is a global perception that white privilege extends not only to determining who can wear the war bonnet but also to the very things Native Americans find offensive. While these are difficult issues to address simply because the power of public—and even global—opinion, this article will look at some of the reactions that Native Americans encounter when they speak against those misappropriations.

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