This Is Us actor Lonnie Chavis, who plays the younger version of Randall on the drama, has written an essay detailing the racism, intimidation and stress he’s witnessed in his 12 years of life. The essay appeared in People magazine Wednesday and has since been widely circulated.
“My life matters, but does it?” he asked in his essay’s opening. “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. I actually didn’t learn about being Black and what that would mean for me until I was 7 years old.”
At that age, Chavis said, his parents started educating him. The lessons included “long talks” and screenings of movies like Amistad and Malcolm X. But, he said, he also saw what troubles real life could bring when he was working on Hollywood sets. He remembered being “treated very poorly by security or entrance checkers” at industry events, “like I wasn’t supposed to be there, until I had a publicist to announce me.” He was also frequently confused with actors from the television shows Black-ish or Stranger Things.
“I guess we all look alike since we are all Black,” he wrote “Can you imagine being confused for any other Black kid just because you all share the same profession? I can.”
Chavis also wrote of a scene in This Is Us that caused him to cry. That’s when a grandmother was cruel to his character over racial reasons.”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? I can.”
Things are not any easier for him because he’s a celebrity, he said. He recalled being racially profiled at a San Diego restaurant and accused of trying to steal tips. He also remembered when his mother was pulled over in a new car and a policeman “Whose car is this?”
Worst of all, he also witnessed a confrontation where a police officer twisted his father’s arm behind his back at his family’s front door.