Some lawmakers wanted a day that would honor John Wayne. Then this subject came up. Is this straight up ridiculous or a serious concern?
What a California lawmaker intended as a benign resolution honoring a late, world-renowned movie icon exploded into an emotional debate over decades-old racist comments.
The state Assembly defeated the official ode to John Wayne Thursday after several legislators described statements he made about racial minorities and his support for the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee and John Birch Society.
Republican State Assemblyman Matthew Harper of Huntington Beach sought to declare May 26, 2016, as John Wayne Day to mark the day the actor was born.
“He had disturbing views towards race,” objected Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, leading off a 20-minute debate.
Alejo cited a 1971 interview with Playboy in which Wayne talked disparagingly about blacks.
“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,” he told the magazine.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson, who is black, said he found Wayne’s comments personally offensive.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, 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 recently come under attack. Former President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner and Indian fighter, is being removed from the face of the $20 bill. Princeton University recently announced that former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s name will remain on its public policy school despite calls to remove it because he was a segregationist.