The University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts plans to address its students after a pair of protesters took issue with a seven-year-old exhibit honoring now-“controversial” movie star John Wayne.
At least the activists’ demonstration gave Interim Assistant Dean of Diversity and Inclusion Evan Hughes something to do as he told the Daily Trojan on Sunday that the school’s 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.”
Protester Eric Plant, a fine arts major, said they (it’s unclear in the article if the Trojan neglected to note the second protester or if Plant uses plural pronouns) created a banner calling Wayne a “blatant racist” because of his past views and how his films portrayed Native Americans.
The banner also said “By keeping Wayne’s legacy alive, SCA is endorsing white supremacy.”
Revelations about the “Duke’s” views came from a 1971 Playboy interview in which the actor said he “believes in white supremacy” and expressed no remorse for the plight of Native Americans.
“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from [Natives],” Wayne told the magazine. “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.”
Wayne was a USC alum who played football for the Trojans. The 2012 exhibit features a statue of the actor along with several of his personal items and film memorabilia.
Plant said they hope to create larger banners and rally people to protest in front of SCA.
“If we can get enough students and if we can get enough faculty to say that this exhibit bothers them, they either have to take the choice of the people that they’re supposed to be representing, or they take the choice of John Wayne and all that terrible white supremacy,” Plant said. …
Plant said they had been working with the Diversity and Inclusion Office at SCA to get the exhibit removed, but believe that protesting will be the most effective means of creating change. SCA has hosted multiple events related to Wayne, and during a 2008 celebration for what would have been his 100th birthday, the school organized an event called “John Wayne: Actor, Star, Icon, Trojan.”
Plant added that SCA removed nine items from the exhibit in an attempt to more accurately reflect Wayne’s legacy, but Plant believes the exhibit is still problematic.
“When you walk through and see a statue, or you walk through an exhibit of glass cases, you have this sense that this person is important and that this person is this heroic stamp,” they said.
The SCA Diversity and Inclusion Board proposed adding a plaque to the exhibit to “contextualize and critique” Wayne’s career. As could be expected, this was unsatisfactory for some.
“That’s not enough,” said film production major Saul Singleton. “I feel like SCA’s trying to give a quick solution that won’t resolve the problem by putting a small section of indigenous point of view.”