There’s a positive side to the nasty controversy that’s erupted over 1971 comments by legendary movie star John Wayne. In an interview with Playboy magazine, the Hollywood icon made insensitive and hostile remarks about blacks and native Americans—comments that sound cruel and shocking today.
“The Duke” spoke in the aftermath of the nightmarish 1968 Presidential campaign, where an openly racist Presidential candidate, Governor George Wallace of Alabama, won five states and nearly 14 percent of the popular vote.
Today, racist attitudes still exist but they’re much less accepted or tolerated than 48 years ago. A candidate who spoke like Wallace couldn’t even win fringe support, and not even the looniest Hollywood airhead would speak as carelessly as the Duke did in a very different era. John Wayne was still a great star and an outspoken patriot, but his remarks emphasize how far we’ve come in two generations.