Racists hate being called racist. It’s as close to the N-word as you can possible get for white people. Ask anyone with a Nazi or Confederate flag if they think they’re racist, and they’ll give you the most backwards rationale for why they think the things they do, but they’ll never in a million years admit to carrying a bias against people who don’t look like them.
It’s because of this desire to never be seen as racist that they also feel the need to prove how totally not racist they are. They want to have their racist cake and eat it without being actually seen as a racist. It’s like getting to eat junk food all day and not get fat, or like being able to sit on your butt all day and make millions. The racist’s paradise is the freedom to be racist, but without all the guilt of being identified as such.
This is where the “good blacks” come in.
There are definitely hard core racists who won’t befriend people of color under any circumstances, but the vast majority of racists just have a general issue with people of color, but will tolerate the “good ones”. In fact, racists will actually seek out the “good ones” just to prove to themselves and others that they can’t possibly be racist since they are friends with a person of color. To them, if you have a few or even one black friend, that invalidates all of the other racist ideas you have about the rest of black people.
It doesn’t quite work that way.
Misogynists still date and marry women. Homophobes still claim to have gay friends and relatives to try and defend their homophobia. Just because you’ve found a few you like doesn’t negate your views about the group as a whole.
This seems to be the go-to justification for why Donald Trump can’t be racist: Because of that one time he took a picture with Muhammad Ali, or the fact that he appointed Ben Carson to his cabinet. As if those few times where he was able to surround himself with a few black people he could tolerate completely negated the entire lifetime of racist deeds he has accumulated. It’s like applauding someone for something they’re supposed to do, which is be a decent to people, regardless of their skin color. And because Trump is so racist, whenever he does something normal like stand next to a black person without disparaging them, other racists start jumping to defend him as if that’s some amazing feat. Yes, there are a lot of people in this country who wouldn’t be able to stand next to a black person without berating them. But, there are far more people in this country–like Trump–who have some pretty jacked up views about black people, but are fully capable of being around, or even socializing with, the “good” black folks.
Racism is a spectrum, so we’re all guilty of racial bias on some level, but those who are closest to the “not racist” end don’t have “token” black friends who they view as the exception. The least racist folks have friends of color who they see as the norm. They don’t have black friends who they refer to as “not really black”, which only insinuates that they’re “one of the good ones”, while the rest of the real blacks are “the bad ones”.
Having black friends doesn’t absolve you of being a racist. There are racists who are married to black people. Hell, there are blacks who are racist against other blacks, so even being black doesn’t even absolve you of being racist towards blacks. The only thing that can absolve you of not being racist is not being racist and contributing toward the culture of white supremacy. This means supporting black people as a whole. It means educating yourself about what led us to our current situation where white families own 16 times the wealth of black families. It means caring about a solution to our very real race-related issues, like mass incarceration, inequality in our criminal justice system, segregated and underfunded schools, implicit bias, and electing politicians who have long histories of racism.
Racists contribute to the problem, regardless of black friends. Non-racists contribute to the solution. It’s really that simple.