Push to re­name air­port in O.C.

Democrats re­new call for O.C. su­per­vi­sors to drop John Wayne, cit­ing his racist views.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By An­drew J. Campa

Democrats re­new their call for county board to drop John Wayne, cit­ing his “racist and big­oted state­ments.”

Or­ange County’s Demo­cratic Party is hop­ing sun­down is on the hori­zon for the Duke.

Last week, of­fi­cials passed an emer­gency res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing film leg­end John Wayne’s “racist and big­oted state­ments” made decades ago and are call­ing on the Or­ange County Board of Su­per­vi­sors to drop his name, statue and other like­nesses from the in­ter­na­tional air­port.

The res­o­lu­tion also asked the board “to re­store its orig­i­nal name: Or­ange County Air­port.”

“There have been past ef­forts to get this done and now we’re putting our name and our back­ing into this to make sure there is a name change,” said Ada Briceño, chair of the Demo­cratic Party of Or­ange County.

Ac­cord­ing to the crafters of the res­o­lu­tion, who in­clude Briceño, the ef­fort to oust Wayne is part of “a na­tional move­ment to re­move white su­prem­a­cist sym­bols and names [that are] re­shap­ing Amer­i­can in­sti­tu­tions, mon­u­ments, busi­nesses, non­prof­its, sports leagues and teams.”

The res­o­lu­tion adds: “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.”

The res­o­lu­tion notes that the county is much more di­verse than it was in 1979, when Or­ange County Air­port was chris­tened John Wayne Air­port.

Democrats point to a Chap­man Univer­sity sur­vey re­leased ear­lier this year that said 79% of county res­i­dents polled be­lieve “that O.C.’s in­creas­ing eth­nic di­ver­sity is a source of great strength for the re­gion.”

At the heart of the lat­est drive is a widely dis­cussed 1971 Play­boy in­ter­view in which Wayne makes big­oted state­ments against Black peo­ple, Na­tive Amer­i­cans and the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

He in­fa­mously said, “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.”

He later said that al­though he didn’t con­done slav­ery, “I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 gen­er­a­tions ago th­ese peo­ple were slaves.”

He also felt no re­morse in the sub­ju­ga­tion of Na­tive Amer­i­cans.

“I don’t feel we did wrong in tak­ing this great coun­try away from them. … [O]ur so­called steal­ing of this coun­try from them was just a mat­ter of sur­vival,” he said. “There were great num­bers of peo­ple who needed new land, and the In­di­ans were self­ishly try­ing to keep it for them­selves.”

He also con­sid­ered movies such as “Easy Rider” and “Mid­night Cow­boy” per­verted, and used a gay slur to re­fer to the two main char­ac­ters of the lat­ter film.

Briceño be­lieves the re­nam­ing is pos­si­ble be­cause of two fac­tors: chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics and the wave of protests fol­low­ing the po­lice killing of Ge­orge Floyd.

Last year, reg­is­tered Democrats out­num­bered reg­is­tered Repub­li­cans in the county that em­braced Wayne and GOP Pres­i­dents Rea­gan and Nixon.

“The num­bers have grown since last year to where I be­lieve we have some­thing like 40,000 more Democrats than Repub­li­cans,” Briceño said.

She added that the protests af­ter the death of Floyd, killed by a Min­neapo­lis po­lice of­fi­cer who kneeled on his neck for al­most nine min­utes, has put po­lice bru­tal­ity and white supremacis­m in the faces of Amer­i­cans

who had not wit­nessed such ag­gres­sion.

“Who wants to be tied to white supremacy?” Briceño asked.

The res­o­lu­tion was signed by Briceño; Fred Smoller, Chap­man Univer­sity as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal science; and Michael Mood­ian, Chap­man lec­turer of lead­er­ship stud­ies.

Smoller and Mood­ian wrote an op-ed for the Voice of OC on June 23 in which they stated, “as Con­fed­er­ate stat­ues and odes to Christo­pher Colum­bus are taken down across the coun­try, Or­ange County must come to grips with its own trib­ute to a racially po­lar­iz­ing fig­ure: John Wayne. The time has come to re­name our air­port and re­move Wayne’s statue.”

There is also a sep­a­rate pe­ti­tion call­ing for the re­moval of Wayne’s name that has gath­ered more than 1,400 sig­na­tures.

The air­port is sit­u­ated be­tween the ci­ties of New­port Beach, Costa Mesa and Santa Ana.

New­port Beach City Coun­cil­man Kevin Mul­doon, who in 2017, as that city’s mayor, led a push to name a city park af­ter Wayne, did not re­turn a phone call seek­ing com­ment.

Wayne lived a good por­tion of his life in New­port Beach, was a county po­lit­i­cal power bro­ker and a mem­ber of the John Birch So­ci­ety and was buried in the city af­ter his death in 1979.

Calls and an email to Or­ange County Su­per­vi­sor Michelle Steel, whose dis­trict in­cludes the air­port, were not im­me­di­ately re­turned, nor was a call to Or­ange County Repub­li­can Party Chair­man Fred Whi­taker.

Or­ange County Su­per­vi­sor Don Wag­ner said he had just heard about the Demo­cratic res­o­lu­tion and was un­aware of its word­ing or merit.

He men­tioned pre­vi­ous re­nam­ing ef­forts had “popped up pe­ri­od­i­cally” and usu­ally “don’t have legs” with Or­ange County res­i­dents.

When asked about the Play­boy ar­ti­cle, Wag­ner said he was aware of the neg­a­tiv­ity sur­round­ing the in­ter­view but had not read it per­son­ally.

Mark Boster Los An­ge­les Times

O.C. AIR­PORT was re­named for western film ac­tor John Wayne in 1979. Years ear­lier, he’d pub­licly railed against Black, Na­tive Amer­i­can and LGBTQ peo­ple.

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