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June 20, 2020

12-Year-Old 'This Is Us' Star Lonnie Chavis Shares His Personal Experiences With Racism in America

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Lonnie Chavis, the star of NBC drama TV series "This Is Us," has joined the ranks of famous African-Americans who are speaking on their perceptions of race in America. 

Early this week, the actor penned a heartfelt essay where he recounted his experience with racism and oppression. The letter initially started as an address to his mother, although it touched on quite a lot more. 

In the letter, Lonnie explained that he only came to terms with his race when he was 7. At the time, his parents had introduced him to artistic works like "Malcolm X" and "Amistad." So, he began to understand his culture more. 

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However, his first real experience came when he became a member of Hollywood. The actor recalled that he always got poor treatment from security workers at public events. He also pointed out that most of those events had few people of color. 

At the same time, most people would come to him to ask if he was the guy from "Stranger Things" or "Black-Ish," like all black actors were the same guy. Lonnie 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."

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The actor's experience has also spilled into his work. At a point, he explained that he cried during a scene where his character experienced racism. 

Although the directors had asked him not to cry, he explained that he couldn't hold back his emotions. He didn't state what episode it was, however. 

A white restaurant cash register accused him of stealing from the tip jar.

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Chavis went on to explain another stirring instance where he experienced racism. This time, he was in San Diego and had gone to visit one of his co-stars — who was also black. 

The pair, as well as his co-star's cousin, eventually went to a restaurant. There, a white restaurant cash register accused him of stealing from the tip jar. He said:

"Can you imagine someone thinking you are a thief just because of the color of your skin? I can."

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He added that the event became quite serious and could have landed them in jail. Thankfully, a fan — who was also white — came along and helped out. 

The fan had to convince the register that he was an actor on two shows. Thus, there was hardly a way he would need to steal some loose change. 

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As Chavis explained, that experience made him realize that America would always see his skin color as a threat. He ended his letter by explaining that experiences like these have shaped his view of the country.

Chavis further called for change. However, he explained that this change has to be encompassing — in policies, laws, the police, and everyday people.

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