Cliven Bundy’s Black ‘Bodyguard’ and the Black-Friend Defense

Apparently, one of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s best friends is black. We’ve heard this one before.

Jason Bullock and Cliven Bundy David Becker/Getty Images

To which he replied:

I’m sure that could happen and be the case, but I’ve not had that experience. As far as being George’s only black friend, you know, the friends of George’s that I know are my friends, so I would have to search through them to find out how many black ones there are, but the point is, I’m here not because—I volunteered, because I know George. I volunteered because I know George was going to be in a maelstrom because he had no idea, I volunteered because of my understanding of the media, I volunteered because I’m a black man and I understand what is happening because of this story.

Which perfectly captures what’s so infuriating about the black-friend defense.

We all have moments where we do or say something that unintentionally hurts or offends someone. But a true friend should want to help us become better people, rather than covering for us when we’re wrong. 

So here’s my message to all the “black friends” who pop up every time there is a race scandal that ensnares one of their nonblack friends. Instead of running to defend someone who has clearly said something racist, be a real friend by saying the following: “He’s always been kind to me and to my family, and I consider him a friend. But as his friend, I am hurt and disappointed by what he’s said and done, and I hope he will work to make amends to all of those he has offended—including me.”

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter.

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