In the wake of weeks of civil unrest, 12-year-old child actor Lonnie Chavis is speaking up in a new essay about the racism he’s already experienced in his short life.
“My life matters, but does it?” Lonnie asked at the start of the letter published by People magazine this week. “America paints a very clear picture of how I should view myself. America shows me that my Blackness is a threat, and I am treated as such.”
Chavis, who plays the role of young Randall on the NBC hit drama This Is Us noted he “actually didn’t learn about being Black and what that would mean for me” until his parents took the steps to begin educating him about his culture at the age of 7.
“My parents educated me on being a Black man really quick with long talks, books and movies like Amistad and Malcolm X,” he recalled, adding, “I was overwhelmed with confusion, fear and sadness. I had to lean on my faith in Christ for hope, protection and understanding.”
“Being a young Black boy in Hollywood made it even more fearful,” he confessed, sharing painful anecdotes about being “treated very poorly by security or entrance checkers” at events “like I wasn’t supposed to be there, until I had a publicist to announce me.”
“I was constantly asked if I’m the boy from Black-ish or the boy from Stranger Things. I guess we all look alike since we are all Black. Can you imagine being confused for any other Black kid just because you all share the same profession? I can.”
“Can you imagine someone thinking you are a thief just because of the color of your skin? I can,” he continued. “At this point, I knew by experience that this nation will never take it easy on me, and that all Blackness could be perceived as a threat in America.”
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