'Grey's Anatomy' star can't simplify race as black and white
OPINION - I know that Ellen Pompeo meant well with her comments, but I feel they come from a place of arrogance...
As the wife of a black man and mother to a child of mixed heritage, Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo feels strongly about the promotion of transracial adoption.
During her appearance on The View last week, the actress discussed how she fought for the storyline of her character and her husband adopting an African baby following fertility problems. Noting her realization of how great an impact the show has on viewers, Pompeo told the panel, “We have to offer something to people who are relating to this. There’s got to be a strength brought to the issue.”
When Whoopi Goldberg asked her if she had caught backlash over the narrative of a white couple parenting a black child on the show, Pomepo said, “No one can say anything to me because I had a baby of color.”
She is mistaken.
Though she is right to assert her knowledge of the difficulties — or not — of raising a child of a different ethnicity, she overextended her reach of knowledge as the conversation shifted towards race, specifically the need for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) along with the NAACP Image Awards.
Pompeo said, “I don’t mean to misstep or say anything or offend anyone, but I do think that the separation doesn’t get us closer to anything.” She added, “There once was a time when we needed the NAACP Awards and I’m not trying to devalue those at all, it’s not my experience. But I just feel like we have to have a ‘People Awards.’” Pomepo was sure to note that her black husband shares her belief about the NAACP.
She then questioned the need for black colleges. When Sherri Shepherd offered examples as to why these schools are still needed Pompeo quickly responded with, “I know, I know, but we need to get to a place where we don’t.”
I don’t care who Ellen marries and actually applaud her for encouraging the adoption of babies of color. I hope more people — black, white, and Barney purple — follow her lead, particularly with the many American children languishing in our adoption system.
Nevertheless, her opines about what black intuitions are antiquated and further prohibit us from achieving racial harmony is out of bounds.
I get it. She harbors the belief that we should all stop categorizing people as black or white because the separation only adds to the lingering divisions between us. Once we let those go, we’ll soon become one. It sounds nice, but it’s a theory as grounded in reality as The Great Gazoo. I know that Ellen meant well with her comments, but I feel they come from a place of arrogance. A place of arrogance echoed from some other well-meaning whites with similar points of view. It’s surface level and superficial thinking at its worst.
There’s nothing wrong with blacks honoring our own and the same applies to other minority groups. The beauty of America is that every group gets to celebrate its own unique heritage. It’s a beauty that still manages to escape some whites, even those further contributing to that beauty with their own blended families.
I’m all for the eradication of racism, but the elimination of the NAACP or Howard University won’t do much in the way of seeing that goal come to fruition. Labels don’t separate us, racism and the superiority complex harbored by those who bask in it do. And the reality is that may never completely go away. This is why institutions that protect the interest of these groups have to remain in tact.
Unsurprisingly, not as many other groups are told it’s essentially their duty to abandon their interests to achieve some unrealistic goal like the world’s largest “Heal The World” sing-along. Why are we? Is black unity still that threatening?
The problem with the Ellen Pompeo’s of the world is that for all their well-meaning diatribes, they still often come from a place of thought within their own realities. Ellen smartly pointed out that when it comes to the NAACP Awards — which aren’t exactly racially exclusive considering recent nominees include Sandra Bullock and Justin Timberlake — it’s not her experience. It’s unfortunate she didn’t realize that given that fun fact she is not in the position to speak on what black institutions should soon become a distant memory.
She may have the luxury of having these idealistic points of view about the future of race relations. The rest of us aren’t as privileged and we have to act accordingly.