The film school at the University of Southern California (USC) is debating what to do after students have been complaining that keeping a John Wayne exhibit is tantamount to supporting racism, Yahoo! Entertainment reports. The complaints come after old interviews recently surfaced, during which Wayne made comments that many deem racist.
Born Marion Michael Morrison in Iowa, Wayne grew up in Southern California and attended USC for a while in the 1920s, but left before graduating after having lost his football scholarship due to an injury.
Since 2012, the University’s School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) has honored Wayne with an extensive collection of posters, movie memorabilia, and awards associated with the actor.
However, the university is now rethinking whether to continue to house the exhibit after a 1971 Wayne interview with Playboy recently surfaced. In the interview, Wayne said he “believed in white supremacy,” and made other statements that some consider racist.
“We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the 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,” Wayne said at the time.
Similarly, Wayne called slavery “just a fact of life” and described Native Americans as “selfishly trying” to keep their lands away from white settlers, whom he said did nothing wrong in taking it.
Now, some students are complaining. One, Eric Plant, said that the school is “endorsing white supremacy” by keeping the exhibit. He intends to picket outside the USC film school every day until it’s gone.
Evan Hughes, the school’s Interim Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion, says via Deadline that the concerns of the students are sparking a “dialogue” about the future of the exhibit.
“[The recent] activism brings to the foreground questions about how to deal with historical artifacts and the legacies of racism associated with iconic aspects of the film industry… our student population needs to be heard and have a say about our SCA environment,” he said.
He also noted that he hopes to meet with students, not only to hear their concerns, but to solicit “actionable recommendations” about what to do with the display moving forward.
It’s not just USC that is wrestling with its association with John Wayne in light of the recently-rediscovered interview. Burbank’s airport is named John Wayne Airport, and as The Hill reports, critics are calling for the name of the Orange County airport to be changed.