This Is Us star Lonnie Chavis has written a powerful essay detailing his experiences with racism.
The 12-year-old actor, who is best known for playing young Randall on the hit NBC series This Is Us, shared his thoughts on what it was like growing up Black in America in a poignant piece for People that began as a letter to his mother.
In the essay, Lonnie discussed his early realisation that he was one of very few Black people working on a Hollywood set and revealed that he is often mistaken for Stranger Things' Caleb McLaughlin at Hollywood events too.
"My life matters, but does it? 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," Lonnie begins in the piece.
"Being a young Black boy in Hollywood made it even more fearful. I can recall the time when I realised 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," he continued. "Can you imagine being confused for any other Black kid just because you all share the same profession? I can."
As the essay continued, Lonnie also recalled crying when an actor was playing the role of a racist grandmother toward his character and was told that he didn't need to cry for the scenes.
"However, it was hard for me not to cry as I witnessed what I had just learned was my reality," he reflected. "I wasn't acting, I was crying for me."
Later, he also shared his experience of being racially profiled at a restaurant, recalling the he and the group of Black friends he was with were accused of trying to steal from the tip jar. He shared that the police were almost called, until a fan "who happened to be white" explained to the waitress that Lonnie was a professional actor.
Lonnie also detailed his realisation that "all Blackness could be perceived as a threat in America", recalling experiences of his mother being pulled over by police because she was "Black in a nice car", as well as the night that police detained his father on their doorstep on Lonnie's 10th birthday and he feared for his parents' lives.
"I thought my parents were for sure going to die going up against the police," he shared. "By the grace of God, they are both still with me, and that racially motivated harassment against my father was dismissed."
Lonnie ended his essay by calling for change in America, writing: "If you don't understand what's going on in the world, then understand this: This is what the world looks like for me. A 12-year-old Black boy. This is my America.
"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," he concluded.
"Can you imagine being me in 2020 and wondering what the future holds? I can't."
For more information on how you can support Black Lives Matter, please visit its official website or donate here. Readers can also donate to the UK anti-discrimination group Stand Up To Racism, and the Unite Families & Friends Campaign, which supports those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody.
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