Calls to rename John Wayne airport and remove statue over racist remarks

John Wayne’s name and statue should be removed from Orange County’s airport in California because of racist comments, local politicians are demanding.

An emergency resolution has been passed condemning the actor’s remarks made in a 1971 interview, when he said he believed “in white supremacy”.

In the Playboy interview, he also used a homophobic slur and said he felt no remorse for the subjugation of Native Americans – who he said had been “selfishly trying to keep [land in America] for themselves”.

A sign at John Wayne Airport

The resolution calls on the Orange County Board of officials to drop his name, statue and other likenesses from the international airport, saying they should “restore its original name: Orange County Airport”.

Ada Briceno, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Orange County, said: “There have been past efforts to get this done and now we’re putting our name and our backing into this to make sure there is a name change.”

Those who devised the resolution said the effort to oust Wayne, a longtime resident of Orange County who died in 1979, was part of “a national movement to remove white supremacist symbols and names (that are) reshaping American institutions, monuments, businesses, nonprofits, sports leagues and teams”.

Wayne reportedly said in the interview: “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility.

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“I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

How statues of controversial colonial figures became targets across the world

How statues of controversial colonial figures became targets across the world

Wayne also said that although he did not condone slavery: “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.”

On Native Americans, he said: “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. … Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival.

“There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

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He also called movies such as Easy Rider and Midnight Cowboy perverted, and used a homophobic slur to refer to the two main characters of the latter film.

Orange County Superviser Don Wagner said he had just heard about the Democratic resolution and was unaware of its wording or merit.

Statues of historical figures who endorsed or profited from slavery, and of others who have expressed offensive and prejudiced views, have become the focus of some anti-racism campaigners who say they should be removed.

Other activists and commentators have said the issue distracts from more pressing issues of ongoing and systemic discrimination highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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