Porter magazine recently assembled a group of high profile TV actresses to discuss representation in Hollywood for its “Women in Television” issue. During the interview with Ellen Pompeo, Gabrielle Union, Gina Rodriguez, and Emma Roberts, Pompeo who is TV’s highest-paid actress and star of Grey’s Anatomy, turned the tables on the magazine and made a point about diversity in Hollywood and the role white people play in it.
The women were discussing equal pay, navigating Hollywood, and the ways their race and gender influenced their experiences in entertainment, which is when Pompeo took a look around the room and said: “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,” referring to the staff filming the interview. She then added: ”I think it’s up to all productions to make sure that your crew looks like the world we see”, and ended with a statement that has since gone viral: “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”.
I didn’t think I could love this woman any more than I already did.
As the legendery Meredith who was dubbed by the New York Times as “the heroine of Grey’s Anatomy“, she has been praised and won various awards for the distinct uniqueness in the character she created. Her ongoing romance with ‘McDreamy’, her venerability and realness made her an unlikely heroine which felt achievable and relatable for millions of women around the world and the reason she has been loved and adored for so many years.
Now, I realise that none of the above is relevant to the interview and also that none of it is super intellectual journalism but I’m not a journalist, I am just a fellow human, another woman in her 40’s (Pompeo is 48 and has admitted that finding her voice has come with age, something I think many women can related to), who also happens to be white, and feels exactly the same way about diversity, and our responsibility to talk about it and do better.
The way I see it, she shed a light on a larger issue, something that is bigger than race and colour, bigger than gender equality and representation because it includes all of it.
You want to know what it is?
The idea that just because it isn’t our problem, then we don’t need to get involved, needs to be eradicated. I don’t think that’s the kind of world we should aim for. I think we should aim for much better. We should see these issues as relevant to all of us regardless of what colour our skin is or what gender we are, which is why I constantly talk about women’s rights for example and resent it when people say ‘but you have the right to vote and marry whoever you want so what are you moaning about?”. I “moan” for the sake of all the women and girls who do not have the voice I have, and as a white women who lives in a western country I feel like it is my responsibility to do so.
The same goes for race.
Now I know some people don’t like that idea. Some people think it’s ‘white guilt’ talking and that we shouldn’t hate on ourselves just because we had it better than others. Some people will also argue that being white does not mean you have it easier in life and that being white isn’t all roses and picket fences which is true, of course it is. We’ve all had hardship, low points, financial problems, heartaches and times we’ve felt unsafe, those decent beyond race, gender and colour. It’s part of the human experience.
But racism is not a fantasy. Neither is discrimination and prejudice. These are not stories that were made up, they are very much part of our history and even in 2018 diversity, whether in gender or race, is still an issue in many industries, not just in Hollywood.
So yeah, I urge you to look beyond the ‘white guilt’ arguments and realise that as humans we have a mutual responsibility to made this world better, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. And if that means speaking up and using the voice we have, then lets do it! Not tomorrow, not a little bit, with no shame or fear, and not because we feel guilty, but because we are in it together.