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‘Stranger Things’ Caleb McLaughlin Speaks Up About His Experience With Racism in Fandom

Caleb McLaughlin in Stranger Things (2016)

Netflix’s young Stranger Things actor Caleb McLaughlin, who plays Lucas on the show, is speaking out about his experiences with fandom racism in his franchise—something that is heartbreaking considering how young McLaughlin is, but a part of many Black and Brown actors’ experiences.

During Heroes Comic Con in Belgium, the now-20-year-old actor admitted that the treatment he received compared to fellow Stranger Things co-stars “affected [him] a lot” when he was younger.

“It definitely took a toll on me as a younger kid,” the actor said, in a video of the event that soon went viral. “My very first Comic-Con, some people didn’t stand in my line because I was Black. Some people told me, ‘Oh I didn’t want to be in your line because you were mean to Eleven.’ Even now some people don’t follow me or don’t support me because I’m Black. Sometimes overseas you feel the racism, you feel the bigotry. Sometimes it’s hard to talk about and for people to understand, but when I was younger it definitely affected me a lot.”

When I think back to when I first watched Stranger Things, I knew that the character of Lucas would be disliked for being suspicious of Eleven. I knew that because it fits a pattern I’d been seeing in fandom for years at this point—a majority white cast with a token few non-white characters. The Black character is not as kind towards the white favorite and is therefore treated with distain.

I saw it with Bonnie, with Tara, with Martha Jones. As much as people like to believe it is us overthinking, the question needs to be raised that if we are overthinking it, why are so many Black actors feeling the same way? Why are so many dealing with harassment over being Black and included in the fandom … if the issue isn’t race. If it is writing, well, what does it say that all these shows can’t write Black people properly?

Sadly and thankfully, McLaughlin had two Black parents who were able to provide him with the sad truth about why his experience. “My parents had to be like, ‘It’s a sad truth, but it’s because you’re the Black child on the show… Because I was born with this beautiful chocolate skin, I’m not loved,” he said. “But that’s why, with my platform, I want to spread positivity and love because I do not give hate back to people who give hate to me.”

It truly hurts my heart that he had to hear that so young, but the bleak reality is that it is something many Black and Brown people have to tell their kids. Amandla Stenberg found this out in Hunger Games at fourteen, as well, and that was over a decade ago. This problem hasn’t gone away because communities refuse to take responsibility and continue to make excuses for the racism issues. Until that changes, we will have to keep telling young Black and Brown actors the same ugly truth.

(via Entertainment Weekly, featured image: Netflix)

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Princess (she/her-bisexual) is a Brooklyn born Megan Fox truther, who loves Sailor Moon, mythology, and diversity within sci-fi/fantasy. Still lives in Brooklyn with her over 500 Pokémon that she has Eevee trained into a mighty army. Team Zutara forever.