“Don’t feel like you have to tiptoe. I’m not afraid to talk about race. A lot of people get very nervous when you bring it up, and I understand why they do, but I am not afraid,” she told Jada Pinkett Smith, Adrienne Banfield-Norris and Willow Smith. "These are important conversations to have and if you’re afraid to talk about it, that’s a problem right there.”
Pompeo is married to black music executive Chris Ivery, with whom she shares three children, Eli, 1, Sienna, 4, and Stella, 9.
“My challenge with raising brown children is how much do you say to them and how much do you not say to them?” Pompeo said, before describing an enlightening experience with her eldest daughter.
“A couple of weeks ago I had some friends over [to] the house, little girls of color, and the little girl came in and I introduced myself. I said, ‘I’m Stella’s mom,’” Pompeo recalled. “... She went right to Stella and said, ‘That’s your mom?’ She points to the nanny who’s a black girl [and says,] ‘I thought that was your mom.’ The little baby looked like she was scared of me. That just breaks my heart. Maybe scared is a strong word… but, again, non-trusting possibly.”
“That experience of being in my house and meeting me was good for her to see that all white people aren’t what you think,” Pompeo continued. “As moms and dads, we have the responsibility to expose our children to all different types of people. To show them the differences in the world.”
I was humbled when @jadapsmith asked me to come to have a discussion about race. I by no means walk in anyone else’s shoes only my own. I was open &honest about my experience &come from a place of love w no fear about having difficult discussions. Thank you to the whole family ❤️ https://t.co/pcALu87U9C
I might have lied..maybe a little fear...lol because sm is a brutal place but...I feel a responsibility to at least try to get people thinking or talking. Even if they disagree w me. obviously I’m ready for that. I just cannot sit&post selfies or do nothing with his platform.
For Pompeo, she’s raising her daughters knowing that they will be treated differently because they look black.
“My son looks completely white. You couldn’t even tell that he has any brown in him at all,” she said. “There is no escaping when your skin is dark. That’s why my children are brown or whatever it is. Because the world will see them that way and they will be discriminated against and they will be judged and they will be spoken to and they will be treated like they are brown because their skin is brown.”
“If black women have a problem with white women, I completely understand why. If any black person has a problem with any white person, I understand why. If black people have a problem with things I’ve said… they get to have a problem,” Pompeo said. “All I can do is explain why I say it and what my experience is and if you want to come at me for that, you get that right. You get that pass.”
Pompeo experienced some outrage when she used a black emoji in celebration of A&E pulling an upcoming documentary about the KKK, which came after she shamed the network on social media for making the doc in the first place. Following the criticism for her emoji use, Pompeo used the term “reverse racism,” which many took issue with.
“I’m not appropriating culture, I’m just joining a fight,” she said. “If you call me a white b**ch then isn’t that judging me on the color of my skin? Why can’t I help a victory for black people because I’m white?”
“If someone is offended by me using a black emoji, I’m sorry. It’s not my intention to provoke you or try to offend you, but I still stand by what I did because it’s a win for people of color and I’m here for it. Every day,” she continued. “Just because I use a brown emoji doesn’t mean I think I am black… If they want to get mad at me for doing it, that’s their right because I don’t know their pain.”
There are so many different points of view (literally) about race depending on where you sit. @EllenPompeo sits in an interesting position when it comes to race, being that she is the only white person in her immediate family. pic.twitter.com/NKIhbqld0s
Though she admittedly doesn’t know their pain, Pompeo does think that everyone could benefit from trying their best to understand each other completely, not just on the surface.
“A lot of people are uncomfortable talking about race because they’re not around people of color. They don’t spend time, so they get awkward,” Pompeo said. “One thing that I do think that would be productive for everybody to do is just try to make different friends.”
“Something that kind of is driving me a little bit crazy currently right now, is everybody’s so woke,” she continued. “We finally realized that we can put black people in films. That Will Smith isn’t the only black movie star… You’re going to follow Tiffany Haddish on Instagram. Well, that’s all great. She’s a superstar and we love her. But how many non-entertainment people of color are in your life? Who is coming over your house for dinner? Who are you going out with after work?”
We’re talking about interracial marriage today at the table with our girl @EllenPompeo ❤️
Pompeo’s own empathetic sense, she mused, came as a result of losing her mom at age four.
“I think that when you suffer any kind of trauma, especially as a child, I think you learn compassion and I think that makes you a more compassionate person,” she said. “At the root of it, compassion is a great practice.”
“I can see why some white people are intimidated. People of color are magical and mystical and powerful and beautiful and strong and excellent at what they do. There’s just so much power and talent,” she continued. “The black experience is a powerful one and I can see where that would be intimidating. I personally just choose to be a fan, but I can see where if people were insecure I guess you’d be scared by it.”
“It’s so much easier to celebrate it and just thank the universe for giving us people of color because it’s a gift,” she added.