Alice accuses Bob of discriminating against/being prejudiced towards group X, and Bob denies it, by pointing out "Some of my best friends are X's". Usually played for Hypocritical Humor, as if having friends of a particular racial/ethnic group makes them not racist. Said friends are rarely ever present to speak for themselves and, therefore, can neither defend or criticize whatever it was that earned Bob the accusation of prejudice. Besides, being a member of group X yourselfwill not necessarily precludeyour being prejudiced against group X.
Often a response to Mistaken for Racist. Related to You Are a Credit to Your Race, and often accompanied by Not That There's Anything Wrong with That.
This trope originally appeared in All in the Family, where arch-racist Archie Bunker denies that he is, well, racist. When challenged, it turns out that all these "friends" are actually shoe-shines, waiters and other people who work for him, rather than anyone he actually socializes with. In other words, what makes it invalid was that it wasn't true. However, the trope quickly mutated; it was soon used to connote the fact that even having real friends of a race doesn't preclude one from being bigoted against them. Recently, even making the claim as a defense has been construed as ipso facto evidence of racism.
An Undead Horse Trope that may be depressingly difficult to put down. See the Analysis page for more information.
Can also involve Boomerang Bigotsnote e.g. "Some of my best friends are white!" - Self-Hating White Guy or bizarrecharactercircumstancesnote e.g. "Some of my best friends are werewolves!" - Werewolf-Hating Vampire. Compare/contrast Boomerang Bigot.
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Parodied in a She-Hulk story involving Spider-Man and Jonah Jameson in court. A lawyer asks Spidey why he thinks Jameson has spent so many years attacking him in the Bugle. To mess with Jonah, Spidey replies that it's because he's black.note This has just become Hilarious in Hindsight in Ultimate Spiderman. The flustered JJJ gives the stock response. In this case, Jonah's actually telling the truth. One of his best friends is Robbie Robertson.
In both the comic and film version of Sin City, there is a scene in which an abusive ex-boyfriend is trying to get into the apartment of his exgirlfriend. She begins to mock him by implying that she has multiple African American boyfriends. The ex-boyfriend becomes even angrier but quickly mentions "some of my best friends are black".
Runaways: Parodied when Topher assures Molly that some of his best friends are mutants, nauseating Gert. He turns out to be a vampire who was trying to get them all on his side so he could eat them.
In the Young Avengers miniseries during Dark Reign, blatant racist Big Zero tells her counterpart in the actual Young Avengers, Stature, that "some of my best friends are Jews". Neither Stature or any of the other Young Avengers were convinced in the slightest, and she was immediately turned down membership.
Nick Condon: (mockingly) I see; some of my best friends are Chinese, huh? [laughs]
Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss:
Billy: You're straight?
Gabriel: Girlfriend in San Francisco. What's that supposed to mean?
Billy: Nothing. Some of my best friends are...
In America (The Book), there's a section listing the most controversial Supreme Court nominees. One of them is (fictious) Floyd Burnington, who was a member of the KKK. The book notes: "But some of his best friends were... Actually, they were all white."
Colonel Cathcart: Do you really think it's a good idea to let the enlisted men in?
The Chaplain: I should think it only proper, sir.
Cathcart: I'd like to keep them out. Oh, don't get me wrong, Chaplain. It isn't that I think the enlisted men are dirty, common and inferior. It's that we just don't have enough room. Frankly, though, I'd just as soon the officers and enlisted men didn't fraternize in the briefing room. They see enough of each other during the mission, it seems to me. Some of my very best friends are enlisted men, you understand, but that's as close as I care to let them come close. Honestly now, Chaplain, you wouldn't want your sister to marry an enlisted man, would you?
Chaplain: My sister is an enlisted man, sir.
Horace Slughorn has a varation: "An X person was one of my favorite students!":
In a Masterchef send-up on Horrible Histories, Gregg Wallace speaks to a caveman in stereotypical "Caveman-speak". When the caveman takes offence, Wallace replies "I didn't mean anything by it, some of my best friends are cavemen."
In the Yes, Minister episode "Equal Opportunities", Sir Humphrey responds to Hacker's claim that his opposition to women in the civil service is anti-feminist by saying that some of his best friends are women... "my wife, for instance".
Todd Hudson: "Now, look buddy, I think we might of gotten off on the wrong foot... I think what we've got here is a simple misunderstanding! I mean, I LOVE black guys! Uh, black PEOPLE I mean, seeing as I ain't a fag or anything. But yeah, rap music? I am SO down with that shit! Snoop Dogg? Man, what an awesome guy! I must have, what, six friends who are black? Seven if you count Indian guys... Do Indian guys count as being black? I mean, I know they're kind of brown-ish, but... I dunno."
The villain in the Mexican soap opera Al Norte del Corazon ("To the North of the Heart"), a racist and bigoted border patrol agent, attempts this before being gang raped in the prison's showers during the final episode:
Stay away you fuckin' brownies!
You are a racist asshole!
I'm not a racist! I'm married to a Mexican!
Played for laughs in the episode The Gang Gets Racist of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. After The Waitress overhears Charlie saying a comment out of context about African Americans, he goes out of his way to show he's not racist by showing he has African American friends.
As If (UK TV series) has this inversion:
Alexander 'Alex' Stanton: I'm not being heterophobic... Some of my best friends are straight.
Parodied on That Mitchell and Webb Look. Jesus is giving the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but the people he's preaching to already know that the prejudice against them is bad, and one of the people says this trope word for word.
In New Zealand, Pio Terei presented a series of light-hearted documentaries beginning with the title, Some Of My Best Friends Are..., which deliberately inverted this trope to provide a perspective from the show's subjects.
In Quantum Leap, after Sam admonishes Al for giving this as the reason he knows so much about Civil Rights Movement, he reveals during the 50 and 60's he took part in the Marches, got arrested, was beaten up by bigots and saw many of his friends killed along the way.
On Survivor: One World, attempting to defend himself against the charge of being racist, Colton Cumble stated that his housekeeper was black with perfect seriousness, apparently not realizing that the best way to defend against the claim wouldn't be to state that his hired help was black.
Played for laughs in one episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers when Lord Zedd creates the Monster of the Week Lanterra out of what Adam believes is his uncle's antique lantern. Adam eventually gets angry at the creature's taunting, and calls it "nothing but an inanimate object", to which he replies, "Careful, some of my best friends are objects." Actually, as it turned out, the lantern he had been created from was nothing but a cheap one; Rita and Zedd had stolen the wrong lantern.
Jessica Williams: Don't worry, I can say that! Some of my friends are white men in suits!
Joked about on Twin Peaks when the sheriff's secretary gets a visit from her sister, who decides to try to make friends with Hawk, a Native American cop.
Gwen: God, how you must hate us white people after all we've done to you. Haw: Some of my best friends are white people.
Inverted by Stephen Lynch (who is white), when he sings about his preference for black girls in his song "Vanilla Ice Cream." He mentions that he is not a racist since some of his best friends are white.
Subverted for laughs by Daniel Tosh, who recalls a woman indignantly jumping up his ass for making black guy jokes during his stand-up routine. Daniel replies "Now look here, lady: my best friend is... Cuban, and that's close enough."
Sean Lock pokes fun at this trope during a stand-up routine:
"It's a nonsensical argument if you think about it, 'I'm not racist, I've got black friends.' You might as well argue 'I'm not a murderer, some of my best friends are alive!' And if you try arguing 'I'm not a pedophile, some of my best friends are kids!' you'll probably make things worse for yourself."
Subverted in an Imran Yusuf joke: "Some people get annoyed at me for making jokes about the situation in Israel and Palestine, they accuse me of being an antisemite for making jokes criticising Israel. I always tell them, 'You know who my best friend at school was? He's a real antisemite, I'm an absolute amateur compared to him!'"
Dane Cook lampshades the trope by pointing out that some people deny accusations of being racist by saying "I have a black friend." Dane says that now Barack Obama is the president he will say "I'm not racist, I have a black president."
Avenue Q, during "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist":
PRINCETON: Everyone's a little bit racist...
BRIAN: I'm not!
PRINCETON: Oh no?
BRIAN: Nope! How many Oriental wives have you got?
Portal 2inverts this - when the best insult the power-mad Wheatley can come up with is "Fatty-fattyno-parents", GLaDOS replies "What exactly is wrong with being adopted?" Cue Wheatley mumbling that "Some of my best friends are orphans" while trying to regain control of the conversation.
Used to an extent (minus the actual phrase) in Mass Effect 2 when Grunt realizes he hates turians. Shepard's Renegade response is to threaten him that he'd better not start anything with Garrus. Grunt basically responds that he hates turians in general but not Garrus specifically.
Psychonauts: In Waterloo World, Raz has to try to convince a peasant to join Fred Bonaparte's army, the peasant refuses saying that Fred doesn't care about the people, to which Raz answers: "What? Fred cares about the people, in fact some of his best friends are... the people?"
Soul Hackers: During Judah Singh's vision quest, one NPC asks him if his saxophone shaped COMP can summon snakes. Judah, being Indian, is offended, and the man defends himself by claiming that some of his friends are indian.
Ghost, when faced with accusations of racism, usually says, "I am not a racist, I am a Melting Pot of Friendship, I happen to have a whole BUNCH of friends who HAPPEN to be black! I also have friends who are wops, camel jockeys and Krauts!"
Deconstructed in thisYouTube video. The poster differentiates between what a person does and what a person is. The main point is that while a person might not be racist, a particular action of that person could still be racist.
Testimonial: Johnny always says: "I'm not racist; one of my best friends is Black!" I think he might mean me!
The Simpsons: Krusty has a minor identity crisis when his Jewish credentials are brought into question:
Krusty: I thought I was a self-hating Jew, and now it turns out I'm just another anti-semite!
Rainer Wolfcastle: We have so much to discuss.
In Transformers Generation 1, Bumblebee once said "Some of my best friends are humans." Of course, he actually does like humans.
King of the Hill: One episode featured Hank being Mistaken for Racist when his dog bit an African-American repairmen. A veterinarian told him his girlfriend is African-American. It turns out Hank's hatred is against repairmen and the idea of needing their services.
Hank tried to invoke this with Roger, treating him especially nicely so he would vouch for Hank (which he would have done anyway), but due to computer incompetence, Hank ends up failing an online racism test Roger gave him to document his innocence.
There was a Mexican politician who made racist jokes after the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, when the people called him out on this, he claimed that he was not a racist since (sic) "My father was dark-skinned".
After Michael Jackson included anti-semitic slurs in his 1995 Protest Song "They Don't Care About Us" - justified, as the song is about prejudice - he was questioned about them by Diane Sawyer. He denied any prejudice and pointed out that "...my accountants and lawyers are Jewish. My three best friends are Jewish — David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg. Mike Milken — these are friends of mine. They're all Jewish. How does that make sense? I was raised in a Jewish community." Jackson rerecorded the song minus the slurs for the single release and the later pressings of HIStory.
Teri Alexander, the mother of Jake England, one of the suspects in the shooting spree that took place in a predominately black area of Tulsa, OK, wrote this in a letter to a lawyer: "Our family does not hate black people. Two of my beloved grandchildren are African American."
In Florida, George Zimmerman was accused of racially profiling and killing black teen Trayvon Martin. One of his black friends started making the rounds on the news station to argue that Zimmerman is not racist. Rule of Cautious Editing Judgment in effect here.
In the controversy regarding the firing of (white) journalist Naomi Schaefer Riley over a blog post on the Chronicle of Higher Education criticizing African American Studies, some of Riley's defenders have responded to accusations that her article was racist by pointing out that her husband is black and they have multiple mixed-race children. Note that Riley herself never mentioned this when addressing the outcry over her post.
In the chapter "Nationalisms: Paradise Lost" in Arab and Jew, Shipler explains that thanks to nationalism, people often vary significantly in how they see groups vs individuals ("communal" vs "personal"), meaning that a someone can be a lover of (in his example,) Arab culture, who can honestly say "Ah, some of my best friends are Arabs" and still will (in fact, he noted they have a tendency to be the first to) murder faceless Arabs and vice versa.
Sometimes inverted with certain garden-variety racists in a Present Company Excluded kind of way, e.g. "Well maybe a lot of Jews are like that, but the ones I know seem to be all right." Corrie Ten Boom, for instance, mentions a certain outspoken anti-Semite she saw helping his very obviously Jewish neighbor tape up his windows in preparation for a bombing raid from Nazi Germany.
I am not worried about my children becoming gay. I do not worry about them interacting with and having gay friends.I have gay friends.But I do worry about a society that does not recognize homosexual practice as sin..
Karl Lueger —the founder of the anti-Semitic Christian Socialist Party and mayor of Vienna in fin-de-siècle Austria— had a number of Jewish friends.
Robert Service, author of Trotsky: a Biography, continuously used adjectives and words that could be considered anti-semitic slurs. When questioned about it, he asked "Are you calling me an anti-semite?" and then said that he had jews among his friends.
Marylin Davenport, a GOP official who send a birther e-mail with the face of president Obama over a monkey body, when asked about that:
"Oh, come on! Everybody who knows me knows that I am not a racist. It was a joke.I have friends who are black.Besides, I only sent it to a few people—mostly people I didn't think would be upset by it.