Yes, Bullshit! I could have politely used the word ‘disingenuous’, but it would barely scratch the surface in describing Lisa Alexander’s worthless collection of words that were released as an ‘apology’ statement to James Juanillo.
“I want to apologize directly to Mr. Juanillo. There are not enough words to describe how truly sorry I am for being disrespectful to him last Tuesday when I made the decision to question him about what he was doing in front of his home. I should have minded my own business. The last 48 hours has taught me that my actions were those of someone who is not aware of the damage caused by being ignorant and naive to racial inequalities. When I watch the video I am shocked and sad that I behaved the way I did. It was disrespectful to Mr. Juanillo and I am deeply sorry for that. I did not realize at the time that my actions were racist and have learned a painful lesson. I am taking a hard look at the meaning behind white privilege and am committed to growing from this experience. I would love to have coffee with Mr. Juanillo in our neighborhood so I can apologize in person and share a dialogue where I can continue to learn and grow and be a better person.”
Though this statement appears to be heartfelt, it’s bullshit because she never once apologizes for the one singular action which could have cost Mr. Juanillo his life: she lied!
It was bad enough that she interjected herself, and her sense of assumed superiority, into a situation where neither belonged. After all, there was no reason for her to be questioning anyone about anything. She wasn’t neighborhood security or a badged peace officer. She was nothing: a nobody ‘private citizen’ with no authority.
I can easily envision how the same scene would have played out if she’d come across a white neighbor who was stenciling ‘Black Lives Matter’ on a retaining wall. “That was such a shame, wasn’t it. So very sad”, with appropriate hand gestures over her heart. “That’s such a wonderful thing you’re doing. Yes, let’s keep up the fight for equality.”
But her condescending white woman demeanor is not why I believe her apology is bullshit. It’s bullshit because at no point in her text does she acknowledge, and apologize for, the most egregious aspect of the encounter. She knowingly lied.
She used the one tool in her toolbox that has been used successfully against People of Color for generations (Emmett Till). She claimed to know the person who lived in the home even though that person was standing right in front of her. This is a critical point because she first used the lie as a weapon to intimidate him. She then used it later in an attempt to weaponize the police against him.
Thankfully, the police didn’t take the bait. Though Mr. Juanillo is a person of color (Filipino), he’s not Black. In this instance, that was very a good thing. There have been too many Black men who were arrested or even killed at their own homes by the police. If you don’t believe me, just ask Henry Louis Gates Jr.
Moreover, the point of questioning him, in the manner displayed in the original video, was to assert her belief that he had no reason to be in their neighborhood because of how he looked. To Lisa, he clearly didn’t belong there and lacked any permission to be defacing property, no matter how well-intentioned, and especially without her approval.
The encounter reeked of condescension, from start to finish. From her passive aggressive gestures to the laughable faux-concern she showed for his BLM message. “Absolutely, your signs and everything…that’s good. But this, this is not the way to do it.”
On whose authority? Was it the same authority that ‘Central Park Karen’ used when she called the police against Christian Cooper? Or was it the same authority that gave the okay for three men to chase and murder Ahmaud Arbery? Who gave you, a random white woman out for a walk with your husband, the authority to police this man’s actions for his Black Lives Matter message?
She rightfully admits in her statement that, yes, she shouldn’t have disrespected him. Yes, she should have minded her own business. Yes, she shouldn’t have acted out of ignorance. But NONE of that addresses the lie. None of it! And it’s those kinds of lies that can easily lead to death for Black and Brown men in our country. So for me, this apology is worthless.
One final note: If James Juanillo does the right thing, he’ll say ‘No’ to having coffee and sharing a dialogue. The time has come for well-meaning white people to realize that it’s not the job of those you have wronged to educate you about your racist behaviors. Do your own work, and stop making your victims do the work for you. Stop expecting magnanimity and perpetual forgiveness for the white supremacist behavior that got you into trouble in the first place.