I think a lot of it depends on how and where you come up in this world. My mom's family was from Detroit. They lived in a house on 23rd Street for several years. My grandmother was trying to raise five children by herself after my grandfather's untimely death, so they were essentially living at the poverty level. The neighborhood changed around them until they were basically living in a ghetto. They saw their property value plummet. Eventually things deteriorated to the point where they just walked away from the house.
This experience left my uncle Edwin very imbittered towards black people. When you lose the house you grew up in, you don't care about the societal inequities that created an underclass of people and ripple effects on the community. You simply become a racist.
Another uncle, Edwin's younger brother was in Mexico seveal years later and he was the passenger in an automobile accident. The corrupt Mexican officials dropped him off at some primitive hospital that slapped him back together in haphazard fashion. He wound up with a speech impediment, that ironically left him sounding like Mexican person struggling with English.
Unfortunately the cops decided to throw him in jail, too. My uncle Edwin hired a pilot, snuck into Mexico, bribed a couple people, eased into the hospital and basically busted his brother right out of the country. He was damned lucky not to get arrested and rot in a Mexican prison beside him. My uncle's opinions of our friends south of the border was extremely low after this incident.
There's no question my uncle was a confirmed racist. His viewpoints about groups of people were openly discussed to anyone who would listen to him. His opinions weren't passed on to him by racist ancestors, but formed by his life experences. Was he wrong? Definitely. He was also one of the best men I ever knew. Just like he risked himself to rescue his baby brother, he would have done the same thing for any member of my family. He also treated every individual the same way and I saw him show respect towards people of all colors in his dealings with them. My black and Mexican friends never knew about any negative feelings he might have harbored about groups of people because he always treated them well.
My mother opened our home to various disadvantaged young people over the years. One of them was a young black man who's basically been absorbed into our family over the last 20+ years. He was a pallbearer at my uncle's funeral several years ago. He knew about my uncle's past, because I eventually confided in him one day, and he understood what formed my uncle's racist opinions. He also saw both sides of the man and saw that inside Edwin's heart he was decent caring man who would help any person in trouble, regardless of race.
My friend also grew up dirt poor in Buffalo and was told by plenty of relatives, "never trust whitey". I'm sure many of those people had good reasons for giving him that advice, but I'm glad he didn't listen to them. He knew that, just like my uncle, a person's opinions can be formed by their experiences, but a person should not be defined solely by those opinions.
I don't condone my uncle using racist language around me as a young boy, but I forgive him. I'm glad I was reading at an early age and I was able to experience different viewpoints. Also, my mother, who grew up in the same house really didn't share my uncle's prejudices. My father, who played sports his whole life with blacks, and had a Mexican stand as best man at his wedding also gave me a better perspective on different types of people.
I guess my point with this long rambling note is that being a racist or holding racist opinions doesn't necessarily make you an evil person, or even a bad person. There's good and bad in all of us, its what we do with it that matters.