Lonnie Chavis (who plays pre-teen Randall on This Is Us) just penned an open letter about his personal experience with racism and, well, damn.
The 12-year-old actor showed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement by writing a candid personal essay about the challenges he’s faced. In the full letter, which was exclusively published by People magazine, Chavis recalled several examples of being racially profiled as a young Black actor in Hollywood. (Warning: It’s not for the fainthearted.)
“Being a young Black boy in Hollywood made it even more fearful,” he wrote. “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. 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.”
Chavis revealed that he’s often mistaken for other young Black actors, like Miles Brown (Jack) from Black-ish and Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas) from Stranger Things. “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,” he added. “I guess we all look alike since we are all Black. Can you imagine being confused for any other Black kid just because you all share the same profession? I can.”
The This Is Us star even discussed a time when he was forced to suppress his emotions about a racially unjust scene, adding, “I can recall a time on set when I started crying listening to an actor portray a racist grandmother toward my character. The director and writers told me that they didn’t need me to cry for the scene. However, it was hard for me not to cry as I witnessed what I had just learned was my reality. I wasn’t acting, 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.”
Chavis concluded the letter with an eye-opening message: “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. Can you imagine being me in 2020 and wondering what the future holds? I can’t.”