‘This Is Us’ Child Actor Reveals His Experiences with Racism in Hollywood

Lonnie Chavis
LOS ANGELES - SEP 20: Lonnie Chavis arrives for the Entertainment Weekly Pre Emmy Party on September 20, 2019 in West Hollywood, CA (Editorial credit: DFree / Shutterstock.com)

This is Us’ child actor, Lonnie Chavis, opened up about his experiences with racism in Hollywood and life.

Chavis, who plays young Randall, wrote an emotional essay in People Magazine, where he explains the different types of racism, stress, and police intimidation he has witnessed in his short life.

“My life matters, but does it?” he starts his essay. “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.”

He explains that his parents taught him what it means to be Black in America with discussions and movie screenings of Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” and “Amistad”. But he says he experienced what racism is really like in person. As an aspiring actor, he has had more interactions with adults than most children his age. He says the lack of diversity on Hollywood sets made get “treated very poorly by security or entrance checkers” at events, “like I wasn’t supposed to be there until I had a publicist announce me.” He added that he was then often mistaken as the Black actor from “Black-ish” or “Stranger Things.”

“I guess we all look alike since we are all Black,” he continues. “Can you imagine being confused for any other Black kid just because you all share the same profession? I can.”

Chavis says one experience on set left him crying. In one scene he began crying when a racist grandmother’s character was cruel to him. He says he was not instructed to cry on the scene, but he says the scene took an emotional toll on him. “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.”

He also recalls getting racially profiled at a California restaurant and accused of stealing tips. He then recalls the time his mother was pulled over by a police officer and asked, “whose car is this?” He also says he witnessed an officer get physical with his father and put his father’s arm behind his back at his family’s front door. The officer claimed “he was being detained for a traffic ticket” and Chavis says he and his siblings hide inside their home.

“This is what the world looks like for me,” he finishes the essay. “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. Can you imagine being me in 2020 and wondering what the future holds? I can’t.”

In relevant news, Netflix CEO and his wife Patty Quillin are donating $120 million toward student scholarships at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

According to reports, the couple is giving $40 million to three major Black institutions including the following:

  • The United Negro College Fund
  • Spelman College
  • Morehouse College

The organizations say it is the large individual git in support of student scholarships at HBCUs. It is important to note, Hastings has a long history of supporting educational programs. He launched a $100 million fund in 2016, giving money toward college scholarships for Black and Latino students.

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