The son of a wealthy white man, Emerson is the only white guy in the novel who seems to genuinely care about racial progress and helping the narrator. And let's not forget his attempts to have a frank discussion. It's a pity the narrator met Emerson when he was still painfully naïve and determined that he needed to put his best face forward during all interactions with whites, because the two of them might have had some interesting things to say to each other. Still, it wouldn't be accurate to say that Emerson is entirely altruistic; he's clearly got a lot of issues he needs to work through, and you could argue that those issues are his primary motivations for aiding the narrator. Our favorite Emerson moment went along these lines:
Narrator: If I could just speak to Mr. Emerson –
Young Emerson: Nobody speaks to him, he does all the speaking.