Some top Democrats in California are demanding a name change for John Wayne Airport over the legendary actor’s alleged racism and open support of white supremacy.
As the Los Angeles Times reported, the Democratic Party of Orange County passed a resolution condemning the actor for “racist” statements made during an interview with Playboy in 1971. The resolution asked the county’s board of supervisors to remove the actor’s name and statue from the airport and restore its original name, Orange County Airport.
The resolution noted that the surrounding area has grown in its diversity since the airport was renamed in 1979, and said keeping the name despite Wayne’s history of racially charged statements and beliefs is harmful to their community.
“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 resolution read.
Ada Briceño, chairperson of the Democratic Party of Orange County, said there could be a good chance to change the name of John Wayne Airport due to the county’s changing demographics. He noted that there are now 40,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in an area of California once known as a Republican stronghold.
Wayne’s history of racially charged statements has long been an issue for many activists, and the Playboy interview resurfaced earlier this year, bring a new round of criticism. As The Mercury News reported in February, Wayne’s statements were controversial at the time and came right after protests at the Academy Awards over Hollywood’s treatment of minorities.
In the interview, Wayne claimed that Native Americans were “selfishly” trying to keep their land in North America to themselves and expressed a belief in white supremacy.
“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.”
The move to rename John Wayne Airport comes amid a nationwide reckoning on racial issues, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protesters have called for an end to systemic racism and taken aim at symbols that perpetuate white supremacy and racist ideologies, including Confederate statues. Many of these protests, especially in southern states, have led to the defacement and destruction of Confederate statues and monuments.
There have been efforts to rename John Wayne Airport for years, though the recent push has gained significant attention due to the connection with protests and rise in popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement.