Jaime Juanillo on Handling (and Filming) a 'Karen'
Realizing He Was Right
How did Juanillo maintain his composure throughout the entire “frustrating” experience? He said he knew he had a right to be there — but more than that, he immediately suspected the intentions of Alexander and Larkins had more to do with race than with the chalk itself.
“Lisa and Robert knew it was chalk art, and that it was going to be washed away in the first rain,” Juanillo said.
So if the chalk wasn’t their problem, he believed their problem must have been in the Black Lives Matter message itself. “And once I knew that,” he said, “I can act how I needed to act. It was simple after that.”
Juanillo added, “They're wrong. And they rode that racial bias all the way off a cliff.”
Knowing the Power of Video
From a chilling eye-witness view of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police and Eric Garner’s killing by New York police, to a New York woman’s dangerous promise to falsely claim a Black man was threatening her in a confrontation in Central Park, video has provided evidence of how racism pervades the lives of Black Americans and other people of color.
For Juanillo outside his own home in San Francisco, it was no different. He argued that showing the world the every day, more subtle racist conflicts can prove to white people that they even exist.
“If enough people see incidents like this, then maybe people will actually think about it and change their behavior,” Juanillo said. And, he added, contrary to critiques he received on Twitter, arguing would not have helped.
“Do you really think they're going to believe me if I point out a $10 million house and say I live there?” Juanillo said.
Knowledge Beats Ignorance
“She kind of said this very clearly, placating, condescending, speaking-to-a-fifth-grader tone. And that's what I responded to,” Juanillo said.
But this is his home city, his home turf. He knew he had a right to be here.
Juanillo is originally from the Philippines and has lived in San Francisco since childhood, attending St. Ignatius College Preparatory High School.
He was armed with more knowledge, too: He knew he had lived in that Pacific Heights house for 18 years. Juanillo and his husband had even been married in that backyard. He knew his neighbors “all recognize and love me.” And he even knew the police officers who eventually pulled up to respond to Alexander’s phone call.
“So the police come up the hill and they make a big show of pulling their patrol car into my driveway,” Juanillo said. “I recognize the police officer and he recognizes me. And I yell out to him, I'm like, 'are you responding to a Black Lives Matter call?' And I'm like, I did that.”
Juanillo points to his chalk stencil. “I'm all proud of it and stuff. And the police officer goes, ‘Oh, hey, you live here!’” He recalled how the officer calmly — cheerfully, even — said, “‘Great stenciling work!’" before driving off. No request for ID. No face to the concrete. Not even a solitary siren shriek.
Juanillo had in fact spoken to many neighborhood cops outside his home after an emergency at his neighbor’s house last year. “Lisa didn't know that about me. She didn't know that calling the police would probably result in a whole lot of nothing,” he said.
But that doesn’t erase the gravity of what she was trying to do, he said. “You can presume that she knew by calling the police that I could possibly die. She was OK with that,” Juanillo said. “Even knowing that I was just working with chalk, she's willing to call men with guns.”
Extending the Olive Branch
After all was said and done, Juanillo went back to his home, stood at his living room window, and knocked on the glass loudly enough to grab the attention of Lisa Alexander and her companion, Robert.
He was ready to accept their apology and not post the video that went viral, Saturday.
No such luck.
“The look on their faces was total mortification,” Juanillo said.