Politicians Demand John Wayne Airport Changes Name Over Actor’s Racist History

John Wayne - 1970
Warner Bros/Batjac Prods/Kobal/S

The Democratic Party of Orange County passed an emergency resolution this week calling on the Orange County Board of Supervisors to change the name of John Wayne Airport.

Submitted by Ada Briceño, chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, along with Chapman University professors Fred Smoller and Dr. Michael A. Moodian, the resolution “condemns John Wayne’s racist and bigoted statements,” calling them “white supremacist, anti-LGBT and anti-Indigenous.”

The comments in question come from a 1971 interview with Playboy Magazine in which Wayne stated that he believed in white supremacy and did not “feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago, these people were slaves,” as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility,” Wayne had said. “I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.”

Wayne also used a homophobic slur in reference to the movie “Midnight Cowboy” and made derogatory statements about 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,” Wayne said. “There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”

Although there have been previous attempts to remove Wayne’s likeness from the airport, the resolution contends that the current “national movement to remove white supremacist symbols and names” could be a catalyst for doing so.

“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, and the removal of racist symbols provides a necessary process for communities to remember historic acts of violence and recognize victims of oppression,” the resolution states.

The resolution also cites Orange County’s increasingly diverse demographic as a reason for making the change, saying that 79% of respondents to the Orange County Annual Survey “see the county’s increasing ethnic diversity as a source of great strength.”

As to what the airport should be renamed, the politicians suggested a simple solution: Orange County Airport.