Ellen Pompeo just provided a perfect template for white people who want to be allies and help lift up people of colour in their industries and communities. In a round table discussion for Porter magazine with Gabrielle Union, Gina Rodriguez and Emma Roberts, the Grey’s Anatomy actress talked about how she feels it’s her responsibility to call out lack of diversity and racism everywhere she goes, including the set she was currently sitting on.
“This day has been incredible. And there’s a ton of women in the room but I don’t see enough colour. And I didn’t see enough colour when I walked in the room today,” she said. “I had a meeting with a director for an endorsement project that I’m doing, I said, ‘When I show up on set I would like to see the crew look like the world I walk around in every day.'”
“As Caucasian people, it’s our job. It’s our task. It’s our responsibility to make sure that we speak up in every single room we walk into,” she continued. “That this is not okay and we can do better. It’s our job because we’ve created the problem.”
DON’T MISS: #EllenPompeo, #GinaRodrigez, #GabrielleUnion and #EmmaRoberts talk fair pay to power imbalances and speaking up on set in this unmissable interview with #PorterEdit: https://t.co/xk11zJIW63 @EllenPompeo @HereIsGina @itsgabrielleu @RobertsEmma pic.twitter.com/KuVIVmrIcP
— PORTER magazine (@PORTERmagazine) November 19, 2018
Her words received praise from both Rodriguez and Union who both pointed out that they are often overwhelmed with the thought that they are just lucky to be in a room, which intimidates them into silence.
“[The lack of diversity in the room] wasn’t something that was lost on me I just did not have the bravery, to say it or call a thing a thing,” Union said. “Because there’s a part of me that felt lucky to be here. I was like, maybe this is something I’ll talk about later. I might call Gina—it might be something we talk about offline but not in mixed company. But I just would never point out.”
Gina added that the reason she started her own production company — I Can And I Will Productions — was because she wanted to create a space for herself where she felt comfortable standing up for herself and other women of colour; a place where she could control the narrative and how people are treated.
“I started my company solely because I know that’s the only place I can control,” she shared. “I know that’s the only place I’m allowed to say ‘This is our project, this is what we’re doing and this is what it’s going to be. This is the culture I’m living in and this is the way we’re treating each other and this is the way we’re treating everyone on set from the PAs to the top producer to the moneyman to the moneywoman to the lead actress.’ Everyone’s treated equally and kindly.
“Until I get more courage, and until I learn how to speak like Ellen does in those spaces, I will make sure my projects have that because that’s the only thing I know that when I sleep at night I know I created that space and I made sure that I brought that.”
Gabrielle continued the lovefest by sharing that she was inspired by Gina to start her own production company — I’ll Have Another — and used Gina’s as a template for her own.
“When I created my production company, I followed in the footsteps of Gina,” she said. “I came after. I didn’t even know what to ask. Luckily we had the same management company at one point and they were like, ‘This is what we did for Gina’ and I was like ‘okay.’ She blazed a trail.”
After hearing that, Ellen — who was brought to tears — reiterated that she feels it’s her duty to speak up in those spaces Gina, Gabrielle and so many others don’t think they can.
“And that’s why it is my job. It’s why I say, ‘We bear the burden.’ Because they don’t feel comfortable to speak up and I’m happy to take it on in any room at any time,” she said. “I don’t need a space. I’m good, I’m good. And you know what? If that’s what I have to sacrifice, if that’s what it was, it’s the right thing to do and it’s been too long where the right thing is never done.”
A few days after the video was released, it gained huge popularity online when writer and reporter Jamele Hill posted it to Twitter, calling Pompeo’s words a “master class” on how to be an ally.
1) White people sometimes ask me how they can be an ally. @EllenPompeo puts on a master class in how to be one.
2) @itsgabrielleu’s facial expressions are a whole ass mood.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) November 20, 2018
Gabrielle Union and others joined in to talk about how important the conversation was.
Please take the time to watch the entire video. Whooooooooaaaanelly. https://t.co/Ar1JQFqNf6
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) November 20, 2018
— Preston Mitchum (@PrestonMitchum) November 20, 2018
As always, just floored by the strength and eloquence of @itsgabrielleu. Admire all of these women, and would like to see conversations like these happening in every profession — particularly among progressive organizations. And among men, too. https://t.co/opWihB1rvZ
— Lucas Fleischer (@lucasfleischer) November 20, 2018
— Ariane Datil (@arianedatil) November 20, 2018
With a platform and wealth comes great responsibility. Anyone who has both of these gifts and doesn’t call it out should be ashamed of themselves. https://t.co/0MP6scGPNN
— Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) November 20, 2018
This is how you use any form of privilege you have to demand change for others who may be marginalized in ways you are not. Diversity & inclusion work is speaking truth & having complex, uncomfortable conversations to make change. Thank you @EllenPompeo. I have tears in my eyes. https://t.co/bAo0Lw78QA
— Prasanna Ranganathan (@PRanganathan) November 20, 2018
While some had criticism for Emma Roberts for remaining silent during that portion of the discussion, others came to her defense by pointing out that she sat respectfully rather than speaking to something she didn’t feel she could contribute thoughtfully to.
People have been critical of Emma for just sitting there. I actually respected her for sitting and listening, and not forcing herself in that amazing flow of very real conversation. I actually respected her for admitting she knowingly took less pay.
— Erica “Can’t think of a clever tagline” Cooper (@EricaCooper) November 20, 2018
We highly recommend taking a little over 24 minutes of your day to watch these incredible women discuss pay inequality, structural racism and sexism in Hollywood, standing up for what is right and lifting up your fellow woman.