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At the blossoming age of 12, “This Is Us” star Lonnie Chavis has already had his fair share of run-ins with racism in Hollywood.
The budding actor plays young Randall on NBC’s hit series This is Us, and in a new essay for People the young star opened up about his experience with racism in Hollywood and what it means to be a Black child in America.
“I can recall a time on set when I started crying listening to an actor portray a racist grandmother toward my character,” Chavis writes. “The director and writers told me that they didn’t need me to cry for the scene. However, it was hard for me not to cry as I witnessed what I had just learned was my reality. I wasn’t acting, I was crying for me. Can you imagine having to explain to a room full of white people why I couldn’t hold back my real tears while experiencing the pain of racism?”
Chavis went on to share how at the ripe age of 7, his parents introduced him to the reality of what it means to be a black man in America.
“I actually didn’t learn about being Black and what that would mean for me until I was 7 years old. I thought I was a peach man, so my parents educated me on being a Black man really quick with long talks, books and movies like Amistad and Malcolm X. I was overwhelmed with confusion, fear and sadness. I had to lean on my faith in Christ for hope, protection and understanding.”
The child star recalled even more incidents he had that reflected the racism and tone deafness that runs deep in the entertainment industry.
“I can recall the time when I realized there are not a lot of people that look like me on these Hollywood sets and asked my mom where all the Black people were. I also remember being invited to events but then being treated very poorly by security or entrance checkers, like I wasn’t supposed to be there, until I had a publicist to announce me. I think of going to Hollywood events with other actors and actresses where 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.”
Chavis went on to remember the time he was racially profiled with his family, but saved by a white fan who happened to be a witness.
“It didn’t stop there. I was racially profiled at a restaurant in San Diego while visiting one of my young Black costars. Her Black cousins and I were accused by a young white girl working the cash register of trying to steal the few tips in her tip cup. It was a huge ordeal that almost led to police being called on us while we were with our parents — until some wonderful fan who happened to be white told them that I was a professional actor on two television series currently airing and argued that he doubted I would need to steal her few dollars. My mother never played the “he’s an actor” card. She definitely knew and argued that we were being targeted merely because we were a group of young Black children. Can you imagine someone thinking you are a thief just because of the color of your skin? I can.”
To make matters worse, the junior high school student explained the multiple run-ins he’s had with the LAPD for being black and driving in a nice car.
“My mother was taking me to work one morning, just blocks from the Paramount Studio lot, when she got pulled over in our new BMW. The white cop approached my mother’s window and asked her, “Whose car is this?” — not about her license and registration, or even why he pulled us over. I had been taught about how to behave if ever getting stopped by the police, but nothing prepared me for this. My mom was guilty of driving while Black. She had to go to her trunk for more paperwork, and I watched the cop hold his hand on his gun as if my mom was a threat. I was scared for her; I was scared for me. I didn’t know what to do in that backseat, but just to get on the phone with my dad. It became clear to me that the other three times we were pulled over in Hollywood/L.A. areas after that were because we were Black in a nice car. Can you imagine it being normal to start recording with your cellphone as soon as your mother is pulled over for a traffic stop? I can.”
Chavis ended his powerful essay by expressing how much policies need to change in Hollywood, in government, in policing and around the world.
“Policies need to change, laws need to change, the police need to change, Hollywood needs to change, hearts need to change, America needs to change. Change has got to happen for unarmed Black citizens to not live in fear of being murdered.”
Jeroslyn Jovonn is a LA-based Writer and Correspondent sounding off on pop culture, woke news, and more. Follow me on Instagram/TikTok @JeroslynDiva, Twitter @JeroslynDiva08
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