Oscar-winning actor John Wayne’s racist past is haunting his legacy. The state of California has trashed the idea of declaring May 26 John Wayne Day due to racist remarks the late famed actor made in the past. A group of state legislators voted 36-19, deciding not to name the day after Wayne due to his “disturbing views towards race,” NBC News reports.
State Assemblyman Matthew Harper of Huntington Beach proposed the idea in an effort to commemorate the actor’s birthday. Local political leaders who were against the idea pulled up a 1971 interview Wayne did with Playboy, in which he made unsettling remarks about African-Americans and Native Americans.
“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,” stated Wayne.
During the same interview, he claimed that Indians were greedily trying to keep the American land for themselves. “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,” he stated, according to NBC.
The actor’s support of the John Birch Society and the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee was also scrutinized during the decision process.
Those who supported the proposal argued that Wayne is an influential part of American culture. “Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July,” said Rep. Harper. Assemblyman Travis Allen said that he “stood for those big American values that we know and we love.” Other leaders presented examples of individuals who have been honored despite having controversial pasts, citing President Franklin Roosevelt, who has been honored despite interning Japanese Americans during World War II, Fox 5 reports.
John Wayne was best known for his work in films True Grit, The Green Berets, and The Alamo. He died at age 72 in 1979.