As parents we often tell our kids they need to listen to adults, but a 12-year-old TV star is reminding us that adults need to listen to children, too.
Lonnie Chavis plays young Randall on NBC's This is Us and, in a new essay for People, the young star explains how anti-Black racism and micro aggressions have impacted him as a child actor and simply as a Black child in America.
"I can recall a time on set when I started crying listening to an actor portray a racist grandmother toward my character," Chavis writes. "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?"
Children should not have to explain this to adults, and the world should be listening to children like Chavis, and mothers like Lauryn Whitney, the host of the Authentic Voices podcast.
As mom to a 3-year-old Black son, Whitney understands what Chavis is talking about and went viral for asking the world "When Did My Baby Become A Threat?" in a viral video.
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In a recent interview with Access Hollywood, Whitney explained how hard it is for a mother to wonder how she will protect her son as he grows up in a world where Black boys and men can be killed for being unfairly perceived as threats.
"I dare you. Ask yourself. When did my baby become a threat to you?" Whitney says in the video.
Whitney says the video comes from so much pain, something that can be felt in her video and in Chavis' essay.
"My 10th birthday fell on Thanksgiving in 2018," the young TV star explains. "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. My mother ran to my room and told me with fear in her eyes to go into my little brother's room and stay away from the windows. She put my new baby brother in my arms and told me that no matter what I hear from our front yard to not come to the door—no matter what. I held my baby brother and cried as I could hear my mother yelling outside of our home. 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. Can you imagine holding on to your three little brothers while thinking that you are all going to be orphans? I can."
A 12-year-old boy is using his platform to tell us that, "Change has got to happen for unarmed Black citizens to not live in fear of being murdered." We need to listen to him, and to all the other children and mothers like Whitney who are using their platforms to try to make the world a safer place for their babies.