As 2020 rages onward toward some sort of social oblivion where we all finally act right, there are no shortage of embarrassing previous behaviors for us to repent for.
This is especially true of these semi-regular racial revolutions that our country seems to have every half-dozen decades or so. One could wonder if this interval was caused by some divine pattern of generational growth, or if we just need to beat the racist vermin of our society back into their holes every few decades, just to keep them in the dark corners of society.
And, in our gusto, some folks fear that we may go too far. That we might accidentally take away too much of our past.
This is the sentiment that drives the latest controversy in California.
This week, officials passed an emergency resolution condemning film legend John Wayne’s “racist and bigoted statements” made decades ago and are calling on the Orange County Board of Supervisors to drop his name, statue and other likenesses from the international airport.
The resolution also asked the board “to restore its original name: Orange County Airport.”
“There have been past efforts to get this done and now we’re putting our name and our backing into this to make sure there is a name change,” said Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County.
What exactly did John Wayne do to deserve this dishonor?
At the heart of the latest drive is a widely discussed 1971 Playboy interview in which Wayne makes bigoted statements against Black people, Native Americans and the LGBTQ community.
He infamously 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.”
He later said that although he didn’t condone slavery, “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves.”
He also felt no remorse in the subjugation of Native Americans.
“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. … [O]ur so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival,” he said. “There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”
The news comes just weeks after NASCAR banned the flying of the Confederate Flag on their properties, and amid a streak of statue-toppling vigilantism that has been targeted at everyone from Robert E. Lee to Teddy Roosevelt to George Washington, all on account of their poor treatment of people of color.