“We Created the Problem”: Ellen Pompeo Says It’s Up to White People to Speak Out About Diversity Issues

To celebrate their “Women in Television” issue, Porter magazine gathered four queens of the small screen to speak out on representation in Hollywood. The panel included the likes of Ellen Pompeo, Gina Rodriguez, Gabrielle Union and Emma Roberts, and together they discussed issues ranging from the gender pay gap, to how race plays a role in their industry.

Around fifteen minutes into Porter’s discussion, however, the tables were unexpectedly turned on the magazine. “This day has been incredible,” Pompeo began. “But I don’t see enough colour. And I didn’t see enough colour when I walked in the room today.” As viewers, we’re unable to see the crowd Pompeo is addressing behind the cameras, but it’s easy to imagine. It’s a scene, Pompeo states, that is all too common across Hollywood. “I think it’s up to all productions to make sure that your crew looks like the world we see,” she noted.

People were quick to applaud Pompeo not only for calling out the problem, but for calling out where the problem originated. “As Caucasian people, it’s our job, it’s our task, it’s our responsibility to speak up in every single room we walk into,” she said. “It’s our job because we created the problem.”

Even Dictionary.com shouted out Pompeo for being the ultimate example of an ally.

“Wow,” Rodriguez and Union both said after Pompeo finished speaking and together, the four actresses clinked cups in salute to the comments.

Rodriguez went on to mention that she–from her much different perspective–had been working on trying to find the courage to speak as openly as Pompeo had about those same issues. Union agreed, “It wasn’t something that was lost on me. I just did not have the bravery to call it.” She brings up times where she’d wanted to make comments in the past but didn’t feel comfortable. “I’d never think to say it in this space. I wouldn’t want to appear ungrateful and be the ungrateful brown person.”

“And that’s why it is my job,” Pompeo responded.