John Wayne has been for close to a century one of America’s most beloved actors.
His “speak softly, and carry a big stick” tough guy persona kept people coming back for decades before cancer finally claimed the Duke’s life on June 11, 1979.
Long after his death, movie-lovers from all walks of life — and even several countries outside the U.S. — continue to revere films like The Searchers, The Cowboys, The Shootist, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance as the masterpieces that they are.
But there was a darker side to John Wayne that reared its head whenever he spoke politics, and with today’s war over political correctness, some of his more controversial statements are turning back up at the top of the news cycle.
A known conservative politically, John Wayne was outspoken on issues of race, and in one interview with Playboy in 1971, he took off the gloves.
In fact, it was this brazenness that he displayed on issues of other ethnicities that recently got the proposed John Wayne Day nixed in California.
State legislators could not with good conscience honor a man who held these views on black people.
“We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks,” Wayne said. “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.”
California lawmakers reject plan to declare 26 May as John Wayne Day because of his “disturbing views towards race.” pic.twitter.com/uy04VN5CNk
— AJ+ (@ajplus) April 29, 2016
Many are looking at this and, understandably, stating that John Wayne was racist towards black people; but if they go a little further in that interview, they will find that blacks were not his only targets.
Of the various “Indian” tribes that the American government massacred and confiscated lands from, John Wayne had this to say.
“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. 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.”
This bit of revisionist history neglects to delve into the details of what happened to the tribes once the U.S. government took full control.
On May 28, 1830, Congress passed the “Indian Removal Act,” which gave way to the “Trail of Tears,” in which the tribes had to endure forced relocations during which thousands suffered from exposure, disease, and starvation.
More than 10,000 would die as a direct result.
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) April 30, 2016
In the same interview, Wayne also revealed that, if he were to still be alive today, he would be no fan of Bernie Sanders, admitting he was once a socialist, but not by the time he got out of college.
The Duke charged that the “average college kid idealistically wishes everybody could have ice cream and cake for every meal. But as he gets older and gives more thought to his and his fellow man’s responsibilities, he finds that it can’t work out that way — that some people just won’t carry their load.”
While John Wayne did believe in what he called a “welfare work program,” he didn’t think that a man should be able to “sit on his backside and receive welfare.”
He called people who supported such programs “well-educated idiots” that kept apologizing “for lazy and complaining people who think the world owes them a living.”
Ultimately, Republican assemblyman Matthew Harper’s plan for a John Wayne Day lost out due to all of the above reasons, which Harper called the “orthodoxy of political correctness,” adding that opposition of such an event is like “opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July.”
But what do you think, readers?
Is John Wayne a man worth honoring in light of his comments towards black people and the tribes? Sound off in the comments section.
[Image via The Searchers screen grab]