Wednesday 7 December 2016

California rejects plans to hold John Wayne Day over racism claims

Published 29/04/2016 | 15:31

John Wayne was the star of movies including The Alamo, The Green Berets and True Grit (AP)
John Wayne was the star of movies including The Alamo, The Green Berets and True Grit (AP)

Californian politicians have rejected proposals to hold a John Wayne Day over statements the actor made about racial minorities.

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Members of the state's Assembly also cited his support for the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee and the John Birch Society as they opposed the John Wayne Day resolution.

Known as Duke, a nickname he picked up as a boy in Glendale, California, Wayne grew into the star of movies including The Alamo, The Green Berets and True Grit, for which he won an Academy Award.

Republican State Assemblyman Matthew Harper sought to declare May 26 as John Wayne Day to mark the day the actor was born.

However, fellow Assemblyman Luis Alejo said Wayne had "disturbing views towards race", leading to a 20-minute debate.

Mr Alejo cited a 1971 interview with Playboy in which Wayne talked disparagingly about black people.

"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," Wayne told the magazine.

Assemblyman Mike Gipson, who is black, said he found Wayne's comments personally offensive.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez cited his comments defending white Europeans' encroachment on American Indians, who Wayne once said "were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves".

Wayne is the latest deceased white icon to come under attack.

Former president Andrew Jackson, a slave owner and Indian fighter, is being removed from the face of the 20 dollar bill.

Meanwhile, Princeton University recently announced that former US president Woodrow Wilson's name will remain on its public policy school despite calls to remove it because he was a segregationist.

Mr Harper's resolution fell on a 35-20 vote to what he called "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 later said in a written statement.

Mr Harper said he sought the resolution to keep up with a Texas resolution commemorating Wayne's birthday a year ago.

He represents the legislative district that includes John Wayne Airport in Orange County.

The airport, among the largest in California, was renamed after Wayne's death in 1979 and hosts a nine-foot-tall statue of the actor.

"I think the assemblyman would know if there was a cross word about having the airport named after him," Mr Harper's spokeswoman said.

Several politicians supported the resolution, describing Wayne as an American hero whose family created a namesake cancer foundation after his death.

"He stood for those big American values that we know and we love," Assemblyman Travis Allen said.

Politicians have honoured others despite controversies that eventually clouded their legacies, said Assemblyman Donald Wagner.

He cited President Franklin Roosevelt, who has been honoured despite his internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War.

"Every one of us is imperfect," Mr Wagner added.

Press Association

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