What Gave Public Enemy the Right to Call Elvis and John Wayne Racists?

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Tyler Brown #211711710

In the 1960’s Elvis Presley and John Wayne stood together as the coat of arms for the American Dream and embodied societies perceptions of white supremacy. Their seemingly endless fan base and mass appeal, coupled with a ‘whitewashed legacy’, distinguished them as icons amongst a vast range of underrated and extremely talented colored artists. Chuck D and Flava Flav articulate their disdain by labeling them as racists and insulting them in Public Enemy’s most notorious song Fight The Power. What right did they have in doing this?

John Wayne was an extremely popular Movie star at the time, during an interview with Playboy in 1971; he stated, “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 judgement to irresponsible people”. This statement illustrates the immense change from culture and society then and now. The normalization of segregation during the 1970’s is illustrated by the allowance of John Wayne’s statement to receive public attention. Ultimately, Public Enemy had every right to speak freely on their thoughts of the inherent racism and the racism being encouraged by the Hollywood superstar. Such a bold statement need be reprimanded publicly with a voice of the coloured people expressing the unfair and undue treatment to provide a piece of hope for minorities that have persevered through the unbearable prejudice of society.

Elvis, on the contrary was not actually racist. His sponsors required he perform concerts to the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASP’s) as this was the target demographic of all white artists throughout Presley’s era. Elvis was born in a black community and once he achieved his stardom he gave back to the black community in many different ways. Elvis made many charitable contributions to the less fortunate coloured people he met across the United States. However, his largest...
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