California rejects 'John Wayne Day' because of actor's 'racist' past

The 'True Grit' actor would have turned 109 this year

Feliks Garcia
New York
Friday 29 April 2016 14:36
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<em>Robyn Beck/Getty</em>
Robyn Beck/Getty

California lawmakers have decided against honouring the legacy of American movie star John Wayne — a legacy many say is stained by racist remarks the late actor made decades ago.

State Assemblyman Matthew Harper introduced a resolution to declare 26 May “John Wayne Day” in honour of the actor’s 109th birthday. But what seemed to be a quickly passed measure, turned into a contentious 20-minute debate, according to the Associated Press.

“He had disturbing views towards race,” said Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo, citing a 1971 interview with Playboy magazine where Wayne expressed support for white supremacy.

“We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks,” Wayne, also known as “The Duke” said in the interview. “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez referred to the same interview, wherein Wayne defended the forceful acquisition of US land from American Indians.

“Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival,” he said. “There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Texas lawmakers declared 26 May John Wayne Day in 2015.

Mr Harper said his resolution failed to pass due to “the orthodoxy of political correctness”.

“Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July!” he wrote in a statement, lambasting the 35-20 vote.

Wayne is best known for his roles in Western movies, such as The Searchers (1956) and The Alamo (1960), that featured stereotypical depictions of American Indians and Mexicans. He died in 1979 after suffering from stomach cancer.

The late actor’s name made its way into the GOP presidential primaries when his daughter, Aissa, endorsed the New York business mogul, Donald Trump, who many say shoots from the hip, rhetorically speaking.

“We need a strong leader and we need someone like Mr. Trump with leadership qualities, someone with courage, someone that’s strong like John Wayne,” Ms Wayne said, introducing Mr Trump at the John Wayne Birthplace & Museum ahead of the Iowa caucuses.

“And I’ll tell you what, if John Wayne were still here, he’d be standing right here instead of me.”

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