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Friday, February 22, 2019

“I believe in white supremacy…”: John Wayne on Race and Rebellion (Part V of the Famous, 1971, Playboy Interview)

Re-posted by Nicholas Stix

PLAYBOY: A number of critics claim that your record rests on your appeal
to adolescents. Do you think that's true?

WAYNE: Let's say I hope that I appeal to the more carefree times in a person's life rather than to his reasoning adulthood. I'd just like to be an image that reminds someone of joy rather than of the problems of the world.

PLAYBOY: Do you think young people still feel strongly about you?

WAYNE: Luckily so far, it seems they kind of consider me an older friend, somebody believable and down-to-earth. I've avoided being mean or petty, but I've never avoided being rough or tough. I've only played one cautious part in my life, in Allegheny Uprising. My parts have ranged from that rather dull character to Ralls in Wake of the Red Witch, who was a nice enough fella sober, but bestial when he was drunk, and certainly a rebel. I was also a rebel in Reap the Wild Wind with De Mille. I've played many parts in which I've rebelled against something in society. I was never much of a joiner. Kids do join things, but they also like to consider themselves individuals capable of thinking for themselves. So do I.

PLAYBOY: But isn't your kind of screen rebellion very different from that of today's young people?

WAYNE: Sure. Mine is a personal rebellion against the monotony of life, against the status quo. The rebellion in these kids—especially in the SDSers and those groups—seems to be a kind of dissension by rote.

PLAYBOY: Meaning what?

WAYNE: Just this: The articulate liberal group has caused certain things in our country, and I wonder how long the young people who read Playboy are going to allow these things to go on. George Putnam, the Los Angeles news analyst, put it quite succinctly when he said, “What kind of a nation is it that fails to understand that freedom of speech and assembly are one thing, and anarchy and treason are quite another, that allows known Communists to serve as teachers to pervert the natural loyalties and ideals of our kids, filling them with fear and doubt and hate and down-grading patriotism and all our heroes of the past?”

PLAYBOY: You blame all this on liberals?

WAYNE: Well, the liberals seem to be quite willing to have Communists teach their kids in school. The Communists realized that they couldn’t start a workers’ revolution in the United States, since the workers were too affluent and too progressive. So the Commies decided on the next-best thing, and that’s to start on the schools, start on the kids. And they’ve managed to do it. They're already in colleges; now they’re getting into high schools. I wouldn’t mind if they taught my children the basic philosophy of communism, in theory and how it works in actuality. But I don’t want somebody like Angela Davis inculcating an enemy doctrine in my kids’ minds.

PLAYBOY: Angela Davis claims that those who would revoke her teaching credentials on ideological grounds are actually discriminating against her because she’s black. Do you think there’s any truth in that?

WAYNE: 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. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people.

PLAYBOY: Are you equipped to judge which blacks are irresponsible and which of their leaders inexperienced?

WAYNE: It’s not my judgment. 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.

PLAYBOY: How do they get that background?

WAYNE: By going to school. I don’t know why people insist that blacks have been forbidden their right to go to school. They were allowed in public schools wherever I’ve been. Even if they don’t have the proper credentials for college, there are courses to help them become eligible. But if they aren’t academically ready for that step, I don’t think they should be allowed in. Otherwise, the academic society is brought down to the lowest common denominator.

PLAYBOY: But isn’t it true that we’re never likely to rectify the inequities in our educational system until some sort of remedial education is given to disadvantaged minority groups?

WAYNE: What good would it do to register anybody in a class of higher algebra or calculus if they haven’t learned to count? There has to be a standard. 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, like the kid who gets infantile paralysis and has to wear braces so he can’t play football with the rest of us. I will say this, though: 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.

PLAYBOY: Many militant blacks would argue that they have it better
almost anywhere else. Even in Hollywood, they feel that the color barrier is still up for many kinds of jobs. Do you limit the number of blacks you use in your pictures?

WAYNE: Oh, Christ, no. I’ve directed two pictures and I gave the blacks their proper position. I had a black slave in The Alamo, and I had a correct number of blacks in The Green Berets. If it’s supposed to be a black character, naturally I use a black actor. But I don’t go so far as hunting for positions for them. I think the Hollywood studios are carrying their tokenism a little too far. There’s no doubt that 10 percent of the population is black, or colored, or whatever they want to call themselves; they certainly aren’t Caucasian. Anyway, I suppose there should be the same percentage of the colored race in films as in society. But it can’t always be that way. There isn’t necessarily going to be 10 percent of the grips or sound men who are black, because more than likely, 10 percent haven’t trained themselves for that type of work.

PLAYBOY: Can blacks be integrated into the film industry if they are denied training and education?

WAYNE: It’s just as hard for a white man to get a card in the Hollywood craft unions.

PLAYBOY: That’s hardly the point [No, it is the point!], but let’s change the subject. For years American Indians have played an important—if subordinate—role in your Westerns. Do you feel any empathy with them?





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