Child actor Lonnie Chavis has detailed the racism he’s already experienced at 12 years old in a powerful new essay.
“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.”
Lonnie, who plays the young Randall on the NBC comedy-drama, noted he “actually didn’t learn about being Black and what that would mean for me” until he was 7.
Long talks with his parents, and reading books and watching movies, left him “overwhelmed with confusion, fear and sadness,” he said.
“Being a young Black boy in Hollywood made it even more fearful,” Lonnie recalled, remembering 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.”
Lonnie also wrote about being routinely mistaken for other Black child actors and being racially profiled at a restaurant. He told about a police officer pulling over his mother when they were driving in a new BMW and feared another cop was about to kill his father.
“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,” he wrote. “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. Can you imagine being me in 2020 and wondering what the future holds? I can’t.”