The Indians Were Selfish
John Wayne was more than just a Hollywood actor. He was an icon, a symbol of the fearless pioneer, fighting Indians, advancing the settlers into unknown territory, always defeating, even humiliating the Indians—proud tribes such as the Sioux and Apache. John Wayne was also a staunch conservative and white supremacist, transferring his movie roles into political life.
In May 1971 Wayne, a supporter of the Vietnam war, told Playboy magazine: “I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsability. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgement to irresponsible people”. Did this statement diminish his fame and career? Not then. It was the time when black Americans, the descendants of slaves, had to use separate restrooms from whites and had to board the bus from the rear. Did John Wayne feel any empathy for handing out subordinate roles to American Indians in his Westerns? “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you are asking”, he told Playboy. “Our so called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves”.
For almost half a century the actor’s philosophy was buried in the Hollywood cemetery of outrageous statements. But now, the Black Lives Matter movement has brought Wayne’s words back into the debate about America’s racist past and present. Activists are asking to change the name of John Wayne Airport in conservative Orange County, California, and the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Art is removing a John Wayne exhibit. The violent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, not the first to succumb to police violence, is challenging America’s history of slavery and enduring racism, which seems to have been incorporated into the nation’s soul and conscience. The Civil Rights Movement, driven by Martin Luther King (assassinated in the southern state of Tennessee in April 1968) has achieved some advancement for Afro-Americans, including the election of a black president, Barack Obama, but the younger generation, black and white, is unwilling to accept any more continued racism and police brutality, particularly police actions bordering on public lynching.
‘A Pageant of Paranoia’
Suddenly Afro-Americans, including football stars and basketball idols, are publicly kneeling to protest against racial oppression. Demonstrators are demanding the removal of tributes to confederate soldiers and officers who fought with the slaveholding Southern Confederates against the Northern Union. After 87 years in existence, the Washington American football franchise has agreed to change its name from the Redskins, which is considered a racial slur by Native Americans. Georgetown University promised to raise $400,000 a year to benefit the descendants of 272 enslaved people, who the University;s Jesuit administrators sold to help keep the school afloat two centuries ago. In early July the town of Richmond, Virginia, once the capital of the Confederacy, took down a statue of the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. Levar Stoney, the mayor of Richmond, considers the removal of the statue “long overdue”, sending a message that the former capital is no longer a place with symbols of oppression and white supremacy. Virginia had more than 220 public memorials to the Confederacy. A new state law gives local government the ability “to remove, relocate, or contextualize the monuments in their communities”. Mississippi has retired the last state flag in the U.S. that included the Confederate battle emblem. “There is no place in our armed forces for manifestations or symbols of racism, bias or discrimination”, declared Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, of whose 1.3 million soldiers on active duty, about 43% are of color. The Pentagon has also promised to take a “hard look” at the names of ten military bases named after Confederate officers, such as Hood, Benning, Hill, Lee, and Polk.
‘A Symbol of Slavery’
But one man is opposed to the correcting of historical injustice: the Commander in Chief, Donald Trump. In relation to the military base name changes, he tweeted: “The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these hallowed grounds, and won two world wars. Therefore my administration will not even consider the renaming of these magnificent and fabled installations. Our history as the greatest nation in the world will not be tampered with. Respect our military”. Not a word of compassion for the more than 10 million African slaves shipped to the U.S., hundreds of thousands who died during the Atlantic crossing, the survivors suffering during more than 450 years of abominable horror. Instead, observed the CNN segment Meanwhile in America (July 7), the U.S. President “may tear America apart” » to save his Presidency. “Trump is not even pretending to hide the divisive racial rhetoric on which he is anchoring his bid for a second term”. The Commander in Chief has authorized guards to protect Confederate monuments against demonstrators trying to sabotage the glorification of evil, and has insulted football players, who kneel in protest whenever the national anthem is played. In their CNN story, Stephen Collinson and Caitlin Hu noted that “without a strong economy to carry him through reelection, Trump is picking the most polarizing fight possible. He hopes enough Americans will agree that their white culture is drowning under a multi-ethnic tide for him to run an election campaign on racial grievance”. Trump also turned July 4 Independence Day “into a pageant of paranoia, claiming that Marxists, radicals and anarchists are roaming the country and far-left fascism is taking over newsrooms and America’s education system”, the presenters of Meanwhile in America said. “It is already clear that the President is running the most openly demagogic campaign in America’s modern history. And it will leave wounds that will take years to heal by whoever wakes up in the White House next January 21”.
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author.