By Emil Guillermo
James Juanillo, a Filipino American in San Francisco just did his good deed for Black Lives Matter. It’s part of what we’re seeing all over America.
George Floyd has been laid to rest but new incidents, big and small, indicate the racial dynamic is changing in America for real.
It’s like the collective knee of a race-weary nation is on the neck of every racist in America until things change. Or until they breathe their last breath.
Turnabout is fair play? In 2020, it seems to be finally happening—a modern reckoning.
The woke are getting loud and woker, and the unwoke will have a chance to evolve until our knees are too much.
We know the knee is on the neck of every police officer in America.
On Friday, a few days after Floyd’s funeral, an Atlanta police officer fatally shot 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks who was simply sleeping in his car in a restaurant parking lot before being questioned by police. He had been drinking.
But what was the crime? Video shows things escalated only after police decided to cuff Brooks and arrest him. Brooks resisted, ran off with an officer’s non-lethal Taser and fired wildly at the pursuing officer, but missed. The white officer, Garrett Rolfe, responded by dumping his own Taser in favor of a handgun that he used to fatally shoot Brooks twice in the back.
If Brooks were white, would he have been allowed a courtesy call to a family member to drive him home? Was there another option than to escalate a minor situation to “shoot the black person”?
The restaurant has now been burned down. The officer has been fired. And Brooks is added to the list of Black people killed by police. Will his family get justice? The police union has already said they believe the killing is justified.
Those allied with #BLM must continue to push down on our collective knee.
From Rayshard Brooks to James Juanillo
No one has to die to feel the impact of racism. Asian American allies of #BLM know that.
James Juanillo is a Filipino American who was stenciling the phrase “Black Lives Matter” on the foundation of a house in the tony Pacific Heights neighborhood in San Francisco.
That’s when Lisa Alexander and Rob Larkins, two white people out for a Sunday jog, became distressed. They leaned in.
Like all smartphone social warriors, Juanillo knew to get ready for a cellphone video.
Alexander can be seen asking Juanillo if it was his property. The assumption is that Juanillo, a Filipino, couldn’t possibly live in Pacific Heights, and therefore is essentially tagging the property with non-permanent chalk. Citizen’s arrest time?
Alexander’s male companion, Larkins, chimes in like a good liberal (my assumption), and even concedes Juanillo is free to express an opinion but the question remains: is Juanillo defacing private property?
That’s when Alexander apparently lies by saying she and Larkins “absolutely do know” who lives there and that’s why they’re asking.
It was all set up for Juanillo, who in fact lives in the home, to show the world yet another example of the racism that persists as white privilege in America.
The video’s been viewed more than 15 million times.
The confrontation happened earlier in the week, blew up on Twitter, and by Sunday, both Alexander and Larkins had issued public apologies.
Alexander is the CEO of LaFace Skincare. As a result of the video, at least one company has stopped doing business with LaFace. And Alexander is now known as the second coming of the Central Park dog lady.
Rob Larkins, a managing director of Raymond James, co-directed national pensions for cities in California. It’s the definition of a “cush white job.” Who did he know to get that job? He’s been in financial services for years. According to his bio, he’s a Phi Beta Kappa Stanford grad who studied political science and likes to read about 20th Century American history. I wonder what he’s read about racism? As I write, news reports say that Larkins didn’t have the old boy network backing him up. He’s been fired.
Video exposes acceptable Racism
Alexander and Larkins are examples of what my friend Rev. Madison Shockley would call a “well-meaning pure-hearted white person.” The kind who doesn’t realize that the advantages of slavery have always remained in the form of white privilege, the attitude that preserves white advantage in America.
He probably goes even further, saying the Juanillo video is just another sign of an untreated illness that resides in white people and that impacts people of color all the time.
“We can defend ourselves in various ways, but that doesn’t stop the problem,” Rev. Madison Shockley told his congregants on Sunday via Zoom. “The problem starts and stops with you.”
I met the Rev when we were both students at Harvard in the ‘70s when I suppose we were seen as the seed of some remedy to racism.’
We’ve both changed a bit, but how about our white benefactors? Where’s the change?
To this day, put a Black man and a Filipino man next to, say, Jeffrey Epstein in his Harvard sweatshirt, and guess who the majority of Americans would say actually went to Harvard?
The Black reverend, the career ethnic journalist, or the now-dead white multi-millionaire pedophile who dropped out of Cooper Union?
As Madison would say, “We’ve got some work to do.”
But things are starting to change a little faster in the wake of George Floyd.
And it’s happening in real-time. As I write, the Supreme Court of the United States has just ruled that LGBTQ people cannot be fired from their jobs because of their sexuality or gender. It’s a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to the opinion written by a conservative, Neil Gorsuch. He joined another conservative, Chief Justice John Roberts, with the four liberal members to make a 6-3 majority against bigotry.
Things are changing faster than I thought.
EMIL GUILLERMO is a veteran journalist and commentator. He was a member of the Honolulu Advertiser editorial board. Listen to him on Apple Podcasts. Twitter @emilamok.