Democrats are calling for John Wayne Airport in Orange County to be renamed in protest of the long-dead actor’s alleged racism, making him the latest historical figure being judged by today’s cultural standards.
“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,” said Ada Briceño, chairperson of the Democratic Party of Orange County, following a resolution being passed calling for the airport to be be given the simple name: Orange County Airport.
Wayne’s specific transgression are “racist and bigoted statements” made during a Playboy interview in 1971, eight years before The Duke passed away at the age of 72. The airport was named after the actor the year he died.
In the infamous interview with Playboy, Wayne made comments that have long been controversial, though admittedly harsher and more extreme than in other public conversations.
“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,” the ‘True Grit’ star said at one point.
If we’re looking to name airports only after people who were without sin, then we’d better drop all their names and let them be known simply by their three-letter IATA codes. John Wayne was no saint, but he still contributed in a positive way to American pop culture history. https://t.co/l5KD5kXuGg
— Max Q (@vox_independens) June 27, 2020
The Western star also made derogatory comments about Native Americans.
“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. … [O]ur 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.”
The resolution from Democrats fully acknowledges the removal of Wayne’s name is part of a larger effort to axe “white supremacist symbols and names [that are] reshaping American institutions, monuments, businesses, nonprofits, sports leagues, and teams.”
As protests against police brutality and racism rage across the nation in the wake of George Floyd’s death, more and more historical figures with monuments and landmarks memorializing them have been targeted.
Statues of Confederate generals have been taken down or vandalized, and President Donald Trump has responded with an executive order promising harsh punishments for those who continue committing the acts.
As has been the case with other figures of the past being held to today’s standards, some questioned the logic of targeting Wayne decades after his death.
“Of course, John Wayne was racist. By the hypersensitive standards of today, just about every person who has ever lived was racist,” conservative journalist John Hawkins tweeted.