Photo: Lonnie Chavis
The young This Is Us star, Lonnie Chavis, has made note of the inherent racism in Hollywood that has plagued his life from a very early age. Since the wrongful death of George Floyd, the world has been speaking up and doing so loudly. Conversations that should have been had long ago are now circulating the internet and in our homes every day. Chavis, just 12 years old, opened up to People Magazine recently about his experiences as a Black actor in Hollywood and the trials he has faced. The essay highlights Chavis’s personal experiences of being racially profiled and the fear that comes along dealing with law enforcement as a Black person. It’s more than just an essay, but also a wake-up call for the world to band together in this moment for our future generations. We have to do better, if not for us then for our youth.
Lonnie Chavis – Racism Is Alive In Hollywood
Lonnie Chavis plays young Randall in the NBC Emmy Award-winning series This Is Us. The show has never been one to shy away from the topic of racism, and in fact, highlights the struggles of young and adult Randall (played by Sterling K. Brown). In his essay, which started as a letter to his mother about the encounters of racism as a young Black boy, Chavis talks explicitly about his life as a young Black actor and the times he has been made to feel like less than, purely because of the color of his skin.
He writes, “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.”
Chavis opens the essay to say that up until age 7, race was not something he thought about. At the star of 7, at that young age, he started to learn what it meant to be Black and he was educated by his parents with “…long talks, books and movies like Amistad and Malcolm X.” It was then that Chavis felt the fear and deep sadness that Black people have faced for centuries. A feeling that nobody should have to feel for simply being themselves.
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Chavis goes on to further explain the fear that came along with being a black boy in the entertainment industry. The young actor explains, “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.” Chavis looks back on industry events where he was treated poorly by security personnel as if he did not belong there. It wasn’t until a publicist announced him name to the people standing there, that they acted like he was supposed to be there.
He says, “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.” It’s a serious wake-up call as Chavis asks, “Can you imagine being confused for any other Black kid just because you all share the same profession? I can.” The essay is a testament to the fact that Hollywood is not progressing fast enough.
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Lonnie Chavis Explains The Severity Of A Racist America
While the world is changing every day, so is the issue of racism in America. Sadly, it is alive and rampant. Chavis gives the world more insight as to the issues at hand today, and why change is so needed. Do we really want all young Black actors and Black people, in general, to feel this way forever? Chavis includes within his essay, some personal experiences of racism being prominent in his young life. These are personal experiences that no child should ever have to fear. He speaks about the night of his tenth birthday, “After coming home late with my family from my birthday party, 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.”
Chavis then explains his mother, fearful of the situation, ordered Chavis to go into his brother’s room and stay away from the windows. Chavis held on to his younger brothers in his house, just hoping that everything was going to be okay. He writes, “ I thought my parents were for sure going to die going up against the police. By the grace of God, they are both still with me, and that racially motivated harassment against my father was dismissed.” Why do we live in a world where young kids are fearful for their parents’ lives because of a traffic ticket? Why do we live in a time when young Black people have to witness their family members being terrorized by police because of their skin color? Chavis raises questions like these in his essay, noting that it’s hard for others to imagine this happening to them, but for him, it is sadly the reality.
Police brutality is real in today’s world, and has been real for quite some time – try a few hundred years with different names. Chavis recalls being racially profiled once in a San Diego restaurant and threatened with a cop call when a white girl working the cash register accused Chavis and his friends of stealing money from the tip jar. It wasn’t until a fan interjected and calmed down the situation. Chavis says of his experience, “Can you imagine someone thinking you are a thief just because of the color of your skin? I can.”
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These are the types of injustice that Lonnie Chavis, and young Black people everywhere face today. An incessant fear is embedded within Black people from a young age, because our systems are broken. Our policing systems run rampant with racism and changes MUST be made. Lonnie Chavis helps bring to the surface the real issues at hand today. Young people are deeply fearful and saddened and we must band together as a nation to protect Black lives. Read Chavis’s full essay here.
Click here to read Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Black Lives Matter, in which he tackles more than just police reform, press freedom and more – click here.
An excerpt from the love letter: Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, “Hollywood Insider fully supports the much-needed Black Lives Matter movement. We are actively, physically and digitally a part of this global movement. We will continue reporting on this major issue of police brutality and legal murders of Black people to hold the system accountable. We will continue reporting on this major issue with kindness and respect to all Black people, as each and every one of them are seen and heard. Just a reminder, that the Black Lives Matter movement is about more than just police brutality and extends into banking, housing, education, medical, infrastructure, etc. We have the space and time for all your stories. We believe in peaceful/non-violent protests and I would like to request the rest of media to focus on 95% of the protests that are peaceful and working effectively with positive changes happening daily. Media has a responsibility to better the world and Hollywood Insider will continue to do so.”
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