Letters to the Editor: Renaming John Wayne Airport misses the point: Racism is everywhere in America
To the editor: Keep John Wayne’s name on Orange County’s airport despite his racist comments. Growing up in North Hollywood in the 1940s, I and other children were taught to hate, as the song from the 1949 musical “South Pacific” goes, before we were seven or eight.
We like to pretend that racism wasn’t a national condition, but there’s ample proof to the contrary in the form of “sundown towns” throughout this country. Illinois alone had more than 500, where people with darker skin might wash dishes during the day but were forced away from view after sunset. California had its share, including Burbank, Glendale and Brea.
It’s taken me much of a long lifetime to shuck the nonsense instilled in me. By pointing fingers at people such as Wayne instead of focusing on how and why our nation fostered endemic racism, we miss the point. Today’s political nonsense of sectarianism is just one example of what happens when we blame a few for the sins of the many.
Stop looking for villains and put your own house in order instead.
David Dietrich, Temecula
To the editor: A one-time public endorsement of racist ideology does not merit displacement of either a name on an airport wall or a statue within it.
However, Wayne’s criticism of a university professor’s qualifications to teach based on her race, his frequent expression of contempt for Blacks and Native Americans, his membership in an organization that characterized the civil rights movement as a communist plot, and efforts to blacklist actors and writers whom he deemed subversive should give pause to those who perpetuate the myth of his epitomizing American values.
Orange County Democratic Party Chairwoman Ada Briceño was correct in stating, “An airport name should reflect our values, and white supremacy isn’t one of them.”
David Sacks, Los Alamitos
To the editor: Years ago a close friend toured Auschwitz. She asked the docent if the camp might be too painful for descendants of prisoners and surrounding residents. She was advised tearing it down would only provide an opportunity for forgetting atrocities.
We are missing opportunities for discussion when it comes to controversial historical figures. Are we that lazy that we must tear down monuments instead of providing context surrounding these people, or do we simply need to erase everything that represents who we are with no motivation to change?
I want to see a statue of Harriet Tubman across from Robert E. Lee. Now, that would make a statement.
Kim Griffin, San Mateo, Calif.
To the editor: Five decades ago, Wayne lived in a waterfront residence in Newport Harbor, directly under the flight path for planes taking off from what was then called Orange County Airport.
As an Irvine Co. employee then, I had been to his residence and can personally attest to how loud commercial jet engines were during the first decade of jet travel. It was no secret that Wayne hated the airport and objected to expansion plans.
While he certainly would have appreciated the honor of some local facility or site being named for him, I doubt Wayne would have selected the airport.
William Barnett, Ladera Heights
To the editor: We can do better, at this late date, than have a major airport glorify a racist, homophobic chicken hawk.
Mike Scott, Walnut Creek
To the editor: In order to save Wayne’s statue at the airport, I suggest a new name for the facility: Orange County-Santa Ana-John Wayne-Kobe Bryant Airport.
Jack Chestek, San Juan Capistrano
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