At just 12 years old, “This Is Us” actor Lonnie Chavis has already experienced racism in America.
“My life matters, but does it?” the young star begins in an essay penned for People magazine. “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.”
In the essay, Chavis — who plays a 9-year-old version of Randall on the NBC show — recalled the time he feared for his parents’ lives upon their return home from celebrating his 10th birthday.
“A Long Beach police officer twisted my dad’s arm behind his back and pulled him from our doorstep with the door opened, claiming he was being detained for a traffic ticket,” he wrote.
Chavis detailed how his mother, Najah Chavis, “put his baby brother” in his arms, told him to stay away from the windows and “no matter what [you] hear from our front yard to not come to the door.”
“Can you imagine holding on to your three little brothers while thinking that you are all going to be orphans? I can.”
Chavis also described how his family has been pulled over by the police multiple times “because we were Black in a nice car.”
He said his mother was pulled over while taking him to work one day in their 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,” he wrote. “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.”
And even at such a young age, the “White Famous” actor says he’s already dealing with racial profiling and prejudice in Hollywood that have left him “even more fearful.”
“I was constantly asked if I’m the boy from ‘Black-ish’ or the boy from ‘Stranger Things.’ Chavis said. “Can you imagine being confused for any other Black kid just because you all share the same profession? I can.”
The actor ended his essay with a call for reform.
“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.”
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