Actor Lonnie Chavis has opened up about his experiences with racism. The 12-year-old This Is Us star shared a letter with People Magazine about being a young Black boy in the United States, and he told readers that “America needs to change.”

“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. I actually didn’t learn about being Black and what that would mean for me until I was 7 years old,” the young star wrote. “Being a young Black boy in Hollywood made it even more fearful. 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.”

He continued, “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. 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 actor went on to detail various ways he’s experienced racism in his life — like, being “racially profiled at a restaurant” — after explaining that his parents used “long talks, books and movies” to educate him “on being a Black man.”

“I knew by experience that this nation will never take it easy on me, and that all Blackness could be perceived as a threat in America,” Lonnie added.

Following the death of George Floyd — a 46-year-old, unarmed black man died in Minneapolis, MN, after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes — Lonnie also recalled being “scared” during two experiences he had with the police.

Concluding his important message, he wrote, “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.”

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