Historic figures have been under fire on college campuses for years, with students demanding the removal of paintings of George Washington (from George Washington University), Thomas Jefferson and other Founding Fathers. Statues have long been targeted for removal or vandalism, particularly those that do not align with current “woke” standards, or that trigger feelings of fear in the college students who walk past them each day.
The Founding Fathers are not alone. College mascots have also been under fire, usually for cultural appropriation. Now, the woke attitude has extended to films and movie stars of the past. John Wayne, once synonymous with adventure films and the Old West, is now under fire and subject to removal from college campuses.
A recent exhibit and retrospective of John Wayne’s life and works is on display at the University of Southern California, and students are not happy. Feeling triggered by the exhibit, they accused the deceased movie star of representing white supremacy, and stated that the display should be removed from the campus, according to Breitbart. Student Eric Plant has committed himself to standing in front of the exhibit with a sign labeling Wayne a racist.
“I’m going to go every minute that I have and stand there,” Plant stated. “I had conversations while I was standing there, and I was getting people to support it. I would like to keep being there and keep having a presence there.”
The problem stems, says Plant and his fellow student supporters, from an interview with John Wayne in 1971, featured in Playboy magazine. Wayne was asked about the history of the USA and the acquisition of lands from Indians (the term “Native American was not yet in use in 1971). He said:
“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them,” Wayne said at the time. “Our so-called stealing of this country from them was 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.”
Plant and other students labeled John Wayne a racist and white supremacist, and demanded the exhibit be taken down. The retrospective is there for the benefit of film students studying the past, but has been overshadowed by the recent controversy.
While the college has not yet taken down the exhibit as the student protestors have demanded, they have issued a statement supporting Plant:
“Our values as an inclusive community are predicated on the idea that our student population needs to be heard and have a say about our SCA environment, especially when information comes to light that changes how we relate to it,”
At this time, the exhibit remains up, but protests continue.