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The “Stranger Things” Star Caleb McLaughlin Speaks on Experiences with Racism



Caleb McLaughlin Of "Stranger Things" On Racism
Caleb McLaughlin in "Stranger Things." Image source: Netflix.

Caleb McLaughlin of “Stranger Things” recently shared his heartfelt sentiments on ill-treatment at the behest of series fans at a Belgium Comic Con.

Dreams That Segue Into Nightmares

Caleb McLaughlin’s career in acting began in 2013. However, in 2016, at 14, he would land a role on what would be one of the hottest series to hit the Netflix platform, “Stranger Things.” And as fate would have it, the character of Lucas Sinclair would be one that he would fulfill for six years of his life.

Many can only dream of a life of stardom, and the attributed success, such as Caleb has experienced. However, the disheartening truth is that often there is an ugly side to success. And even the wildest and unimaginable dreams can segue into nightmarish experiences for those living them.

Caleb Mclaughlin’s Experience

According to Caleb, he has experienced a great deal of racism from fans of “Stranger Things.” And those experiences have had a tremendous impact. For example, Mclaughlin recalled how at earlier comic cons, fans of the series would avoid him. And when questioned, as Mclaughlin reflects, some would preface their behavior by arguing they didn’t like how his character treated Eleven. While this hardly seems like blatant racism, it does reek of micro-aggressive behaviors with racial underpinnings. And as a young boy, as the rising star admits, these experiences took a toll.

Stark Reality

McLaughlin relayed a very sobering conversation he once held with his parents regarding his treatment. According to Variety, McLaughlin recollected,

“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.”

And as startling as such a statement, it is a stinging reality and a nasty reminder of the impact of a callous culture on an impressionable boy’s mental framework.

Some Roads Are Unending

Over 120 years ago, the first African American graced the silver screen in the person of Lincoln Perry. And it’s been 110 years since the first African American child Ernest Frederick Morrison stood in front of cameras to entertain the masses.

Ernest Fredrick Morrison

Ernest Fredrick Morrison

This is what makes reflecting on Mclaughlin’s experience so sobering. Over a century has passed, and the cinema has seen significant advancement. It remains unfortunate that some things have yet to change. It would be wonderful if one could say that Caleb’s experience is an outlier. Mclaughlin’s experience mirrors countless others, not to exclude Hallie Bailey. Bailey, too, has had to withstand widespread racist and aggressive behaviors in the form of derogatory epitaphs and the like over her casting as Ariel.

Waiting For The World To Change

At the height of the sixties, during the civil rights movement, Sam Cook penned his moving single “Change is Gonna Come.” However, most tragically, society still lies in wait for that much-needed change. And McLaughlin’s, as well as Bailey’s experiences, stand as reference points. Because sadly, although Caleb references the impact of earlier childhood experiences, according to the actor, not much has changed. In Mclauhglin’s words,

“Even now, some people don’t follow me or don’t support me because I’m Black.”

And such behaviors are untenable.

Mclaughlin is Turning Lemons to Lemonade

However, the star is using his experiences as a positive. He says,

“But with my platform, I desire to spread positivity and love because I do not give hate back to people who give hate to me.”

That is an incredible demonstration of maturation, which is laudable. But it doesn’t shift the spotlights from an insidious issue so deeply rooted one wonders when or if society will ever reach a tipping point.

Written by: Renae Richardson

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