Actor James Earl Jones, whose voice alone propelled him to stardom, opened up to BBC news about his unexpected fame thanks to those Star Wars movies and also his childhood days in his native Mississippi at a time when racism was a lifestyle. He shares his confusing upbringing due to the climate of hate his grandmother encouraged. He acknowledges that she was “the most racist person” he has ever known and she was adamant about spreading the poison to her grandson, by labeling whites as “the devils”. Her sense of pride made it difficult for her to internalize the bigotry and also made her bitter that her own people were succumbing to the mindset that they were inferior.

Jones had to train himself not adopt reverse racism as the weapon of choice against the bigots that populated his town. But then he also allowed himself to experiment with the idea of what it must be like to abhor such extreme views against another group of human beings. He now declares that thanks to his grandmother he can relate to both sides of the spectrum and can now “live in the shoes of racists”.

Tit for tat is never an effective way to end injustice or handle being oppressed, but its hard not sympathize with his grandmother, who probably thought she was arming her grandson for the ugly world out there, afraid that he would be swallowed whole if he didn’t possess some sense of pride and resistance.

But it also shows how we all grow up to be independent thinkers despite what we are fed at home as youngsters. Jones eventually adopted a more healthy approach to the subject and used his interactions with kids of other races as the template for his overall opinion and mantra.

It also demonstrates how damaging our comments can be to our kids when we carelessly force them to internalize our point of view however unreasonable it may be.

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  • Harrison

    Just to clarify, Mr. Jones family was chased from their land which was owned by the family when Mr. Jones was 5 years old. Merely because they were a black family who actually worked hard and bought their own land. His family had to sleep at night with riffles under their pillows because the klan had let it be known they were coming. They bought land site unseen in Upper Michigan to protect the family. The family found themselves as the only African American families in the town for years. So try to understand why my great great grandmother was so angry, but this move helped my family to grow and understand all racists. The same way I teach my children today. Mr. Jones married his wife CC because he loves her, color had nothing to do with it!! This story was told to me by my grandfather who moved Mr. Jones to Michigan and James Earl probably doesn’t remember, but he was right she was a bitter women wouldn’t you be? If someone took your home and ran you north to protect your family, you would be bitter no matter what race you are.