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USC Will Remove John Wayne Exhibit After Protests Over His Past Racist Remarks

USC Will Remove John Wayne Exhibit Following Protests Over His Racist Comments
July 12, 2020 - 20:21 / Lucas Anderson

John Wayne's history of problematic comments has led to calls for a reassessment of his legacy. As a result, USC has now confirmed that it will remove an exhibit of the actor's memorabilia and personal items.

John Wayne's legacy will no longer be openly displayed at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts (SCA).

USC confirmed on July 10 that the school's Wayne Exhibit will be taken down and instead shifted to the Cinematic Arts Library archive. There, the exhibit's contents will remain available for study, but the actor's history won't be honoured as it once was.

The decision comes after the SCA faced renewed calls to remove the exhibit, owing to Wayne's history of racist and problematic remarks - in particular those he made in a 1971 interview with Playboy.

USC's School of Cinematic Arts removes John Wayne Exhibit

On July 10, the SCA released the following statement on Twitter about the exhibit:

"Conversations about systemic racism in our cultural institutions along with the recent global, civil uprising by the Black Lives Matter Movement require that we consider the role our School can play as a change maker in promoting antiracist cultural values and experiences. Therefore, it has been decided that the Wayne Exhibit will be removed," the Twitter statement read.

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John Wayne's 1971 Playboy interview is in the spotlight again

The racist, homophobic, and anti-Indigenous contents of Wayne's 1971 Playboy interview have resurfaced from time to time, prompting calls to address the Western legend's public honours. In 2020, critics have also targeted California's John Wayne Airport, but so far only USC has taken action on its Wayne Exhibit.

In the controversial 1971 interview, Wayne said:

"With a lot of blacks, there's quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can't all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility."

The actor, who was 63 years old at the time, went on to say he did not "feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago, these people were slaves."

On Indigenous Americans, Wayne said: "I don't feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from the Indians. 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."

In the same interview, he also used a homophobic slur to describe the bond between Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman's characters in 1969 Best Picture-winner Midnight Cowboy.

John Wayne in 1971.

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John Wayne's son Ethan defends his late father

Wayne's son, Ethan, recently defended his father against such criticisms, saying that he was not, in fact, a white supremacist, despite the remarks of the Playboy interview.

If his late father was alive now, he would "be in the forefront demanding fairness and justice for all people," Ethan told TMZ in June. "He would have pulled those officers off of George Floyd, because that was the right thing to do." 

"There is no question that the words spoken by John Wayne in an interview 50 years ago have caused pain and anger. They pained him as well, as he realized his true feelings were wrongly conveyed," Wayne's son added.

While USC has moved to take down its Wayne Exhibit, no plans have at this time been announced to change the Orange County, California, airport that bears his name.