The remarkable thing about James Dean’s Indiana background is that he rose above it. He threw off aspects that were limiting - racist and homophobic bigotry, small-mindedness - and retained only those that were charming and natural.
James Dean refused to limit himself with strictures imposed by others. As an adult he was happy to count African-Americans among his friends; he was particularly interested in what they could teach him. Thus he would study dance with Katherine Dunham and bongos with Cyril Jackson, and enjoy the company of Eartha Kitt, Bill Gunn, Sammy Davis Jr., Marietta Canty, and others.
Nor was James Dean an anti-Semite; he could claim that most of his best friends were Jewish: Dizzy Sheridan, Barbara Glenn, Roy Schatt, David Diamond, Leonard Rosenman, James Sheldon, Norma Crane, Arlene Sachs, Bob Heller, Martin Landau. Race, creed, or sexual preference had no bearing on Dean’s estimation of others; he judged them on the basis of what he could learn from them.