She had Cherokee, Choctaw Indian and African-American roots, but James Earl Jones says in an interview with BBC News that his grandmother was the “most racist person” he has ever known.
“She trained us that way,” Jones said. “She would consider it defensive racism, but it’s still racism, it’s still the same poison.”
The “poison” had a positive side, though: He credits his grandmother with giving him his “first need for independent thinking” and allowing him to empathize with racists:
Jones explains, “I’d go to school with white kids and Indian kids. I knew they weren’t the devils that she said they were. I had to start thinking for myself, and I had to start understanding the extent to which she was right, too. But I can now live in the shoes of racists. When I hear about racists, I know exactly what they’re feeling. I said, ‘I’m gonna allow myself to feel that, just for the hell of it.’ So I know what they’re going through.”
Root readers, have you learned anything from intolerance within your own families? Let us know in the comments.