John Wayne, a.k.a. The Duke, a.k.a. Marion Morrison, is the white Baby Boomer’s patron saint. He’s the guy the crusty old guy wearing the MAGA hat looks up to, and apparently for good reason: Wayne’s Playboy magazine interview from 1971 is doing the rounds on Twitter (despite Wayne having been dead for 40 years) for achieving the white supremacy hat trick: racism, homophobia and revisionist history. Wayne was 63 when he gave the interview, so nothing here comes as much of a surprise from a white man born in the early 1900s. But Jesus, there are some doozies in here and it gives credence to that line in Public Enemy‘s “Fight the Power.” Here are just a few of Wayne’s WTF quotes:
He thought gay sex was perverted: When explaining why he felt the 1969 classic buddy drama Easy Rider is perverted, Wayne said, “Wouldn’t you say that the wonderful love of those two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two f–s, qualifies?” I imagine that F-bomb fell off his tongue like the word “the.”
He believed in white supremacy: Mention “white supremacism” today and a whole lot of people will claim it’s not a thing. But nearly half a century ago, Wayne mentioned it with an appreciation reserved for the likes of David Duke: “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.” I wonder how he’d feel to see all these Black teacher learnin’ all these white kids in the good ol’ 21st century…
He thought Black folks weren’t smart enough, because science!: Wayne basically suggested that there’s empirical evidence that Black folks aren’t capable of developing the same level of smarts as our white counterparts: “The academic community has developed certain tests that determine whether the Blacks are sufficiently equipped scholastically. But some Blacks have tried to force the issue and enter college when they haven’t passed the tests and don’t have the requisite background.” This was an outmoded idea even in 1971, but leave it to the Duke to drop Ku Klux Klan talking points in a major magazine interview.
Black folks had a leg up over poor white men. In 1971! The interviewer asks Wayne if systemic inequalities can be fixed without governmental advantages provided to minorities, to which he responds: “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves. Now, I’m not condoning slavery. It’s just a fact of life… I think any Black who can compete with a white today can get a better break than a white man. I wish they’d tell me where in the world they have it better than right here in America.” Three years after the civil rights movement…right, John.
Stealing the country from Native Americans? No prob!: When asked if “Indians” have a subordinate role in his movies, Wayne said, “I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them, if that’s what you’re asking. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. If those inequalities are presently affecting any of the Indians now alive, they have a right to a court hearing. But what happened 100 years ago in our country can’t be blamed on us today.” This interview is nearly 50 years old, but there’s nothing sadder than the fact that you could throw a stone in Middle America and hit a dude who believes everything Wayne did. In 2019.