California Democrats are pushing for one of the state’s airports to change its name and slash a statue honoring a well-documented racist and homophobe known professionally as John Wayne, actor and namesake of Orange County’s John Wayne Airport. The Board of Supervisors for the county just east of Long Beach passed an emergency resolution to drop Wayne’s name, statue, and likeness from the airport and restore the name to the Orange County Airport, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
The late actor celebrated for decades for his roles in Western films wasn’t exactly shy about his offensive views. He used a homophobic slur to describe characters in the film “Midnight Cowboy,” and in the same 1971 interview with Playboy Magazine he admitted to being a white supremacist. “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility,” he said. “I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”
Wayne claimed in the interview that the “academic community has developed certain tests that determine whether the blacks are sufficiently equipped scholastically.” “But some blacks have tried to force the issue and enter college when they haven’t passed the tests and don’t have the requisite background,” he said.
When asked about remedial education being offered to “disadvantaged minority groups,” Wayne replied: “What good would it do to register anybody in a class of higher algebra or calculus if they haven’t learned to count? There has to be a standard. I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.”
Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, told the Los Angeles Times there have been other efforts to get Wayne’s name removed from the airport, “and now we’re putting our name and our backing into this to make sure there is a name change.”
The Democratic Party of Orange County has collected more than 680 signatures on a petition to have the airport renamed. The effort is part of “a national movement to remove white supremacist symbols and names [that are] reshaping American institutions, monuments, businesses, nonprofits, sports leagues and teams,” according to the resolution.
“It is widely recognized that racist symbols produce lasting physical and psychological stress and trauma particularly to Black communities, people of color and other oppressed groups,” the group of Democrats added in the resolution.
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