California assembly nixes 'John Wayne Day' because: 'racist'

The California General Assembly voted down a proposal 35-20 to make May 26 John Wayne Day in the state. 

Lawmakers cited a 1971 interview in Playboy where Wayne voiced racist views while excusing the stealing by whites of Indian lands.

Supporters pointed out that other Americans had been honored with a day of recognition despite similar views.


Assemblyman Luis Alejo was among those against the proposal, citing a 1971 interview the actor made with Playboy where he was quoted as saying: "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."

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez also cited the same interview where Wayne defended white Europeans' encroachment on Native American land.

"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," the actor said.

Wayne's support for the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee and the far right John Birch Society were also brought up.

After the defeat Harper said the proposal failed 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 said.

You might ask Mr. Harper what his point is? Of course liberals oppose applie pie (fattening), fireworks (too much like guns), baseball (exploiting workers), free enterprise (you're kidding, right?), and July 4th (racist, sexist, murdering country shouldn't celebrate anything).

And Assemblyman Donald Wagner pointed out others had been honoured despite controversies in their past, mentioning President Franklin Roosevelt who had been honoured despite his internment of Japanese Americans during World War Two.

The John Wayne Day row comes a week after it was announced the face of former US president and slave owner Andrew Jackson would be removed from the front of the US $20 bill and be replaced by freed slave and anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman.

Also this month Princeton University announced it would keep former President Woodrow Wilson's name on one of its buildings despite calls to remove it because he was a segregationist and held racist views.

The university decided that President Wilson's accomplishments deserved to be recognised along with his faults.

Only liberal icons can be forgiven their past sins, or their troublesome views placed in historical context. Wilson's nauseating racism can be excused because he expanded government. Martin  Luther King's communist affiliations are actually celebrated by some liberals. Malcolm X's violent, eliminationist rhetoric against whites was justified. Ted Kennedy's drinking, womanizing and murder of a young girl can be forgotten because of his accomplishments in the Senate - so goes the rationale.

Wayne's words were ignorant. But the context of the times puts him squarely in the mainstream of the thinking of ordinary white Americans - as were President Wilson's views on race. It's not an attempt to excuse Wayne's words - he should have known better. But a big part of the civil rights movement at the time was to make thinking like that obsolete by educating white America about how hurtful words like that were to ordinary blacks and ultimately, how wrong they were.

For decades, John Wayne was the face of America to the rest of the world. Not acknowledging that singular fact is petty and without merit.


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