Dear Mr. John Wayne,
Like you, I grew up in Southern California. I remember having your former home pointed out to me many times riding around in a boat in Newport Harbor, and I have flown in and out of the airport bearing your name countless times. My dad was a huge fan of your movies.
Apparently, they want to change the name of your airport; they want to take your name off because of some things you said in an interview. I was shocked to hear the accusations. You were such a big man, prone to protect the meek. At least that’s the Duke I remember. So how could you have said those things? But you did.
I’ve been told you were just a product of your generation. That it was more socially acceptable to say those things “back then.” And maybe that’s true. But it still was a punch to the gut to read the words you had said just three years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. It’s not like you didn’t know that Black people were being oppressed in our country. And it was because of people like you.
Maybe you didn’t mean it. Maybe you wouldn’t have said it if you had been born and lived at a later time. Maybe your words had never been challenged before. And maybe it’s unfair to judge you based on things that you said 50 years ago that will live forever thanks to the internet. But all the same, I support your name being removed. (And I’m not even a Democrat, although I’ve been accused of being a socialist, Marxist, and even a communist.)
You see, we’re in the middle of something. A war, really. Against racism and hate. Yes, still. And we simply can’t elevate someone who said those things and thought that way. I know that leaves a lot of people out. A lot of statues are coming down and names are being changed all over the US. Some of them are coming down violently at the hands of protestors. But mostly they are being removed intentionally.
Obviously there is a lot of controversy over it all, and it’s become pretty political. Left versus Right. Us versus them. (I don’t really have an “us” or “them” to belong to, so my thoughts here are just mine.)
Lots of people disagree with me, including our president. He called it “incredible stupidity” on the part of the “Do Nothing Democrats.” The thing is I don’t want my kids to grow up in a nation where we have airports named after racists. I don’t want people who fought to maintain slavery to have statues in public places. I don’t want a state in our union to bear the Confederate flag. I believe it’s time we make changes; not to remove history, but to reframe it in a way that we assume responsibility for our past and position our country for healing.
A politically homeless white woman who is tired of status quo and wants a racially reconciled country for her kids