The case against the “Friend Argument”
I’m not a murderer; some of my best friends are alive.
Having a friend who belongs to a demographic that one hates isn’t incompatible with a prejudice against that demographic – and this is the key to the fallacy. A prejudice, is by its etymology a “pre-judgement” of someone, based on more general information that may not necessarily apply to an individual.
This can be a relatively benign conclusion (“he’s a gay man, he must like fashion”) or it can be the considerably more negative (“he’s a black man, he’s going to stab me”). However, once some has actually gotten beyond the stage of judging someone on prior knowledge, they can change their mind about that individual.
In many cases, this might overturn the prejudice entirely but in the case of people using the friend argument, it has only overturned the prejudice against one individual, or maybe a few more. The prejudice, the pre-judgement against a group of people, still stands. This is why saying you have a friend in one particular demographic doesn’t excuse racism, homophobia or other prejudice; you can’t have a pre-judgement about someone you already know, but you can still maintain your pre-judgement against people you haven’t met.