The Dangers of White Faves: Ellen Pompeo Edition

Less than six months ago, I wrote a post titled “The Dangers of White Faves” in which I made a case for my anxiety regarding being a fan of white celebrities because you never know if/when they will say something racist. I specifically mentioned my tortured love of Grey’s Anatomy as an example since there’s so many white people on that show.

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I made this exact same joke in July
Well friends, I hate to inform you that I’m psychic. Actually, wait scratch that; friends, I am pleased to inform you of my newfound superpowers and let you know that I am a psychic because I called it.

Meredith Grey herself took this holy day, Christmas Eve Eve, to totally fuck up. In a little over an hour, Ellen Pompeo played the “I’m not racist, I have a Black friend” card and implied that reverse racism is just a “different form” of racism.

Y’all. What?

How does a woman who works on a show with the likes of Shonda Rhimes, Jesse Williams, and Debbie Allen mess up this badly? I still can’t wrap my head around how this even happened. Surely this cast is #woke enough to have had conversations about complex things like race and racism. Right? This kind of topic has to come up, doesn’t it? Shonda Rhimes is known for discussing race and gender, like, always. Activist Jesse Williams spits knowledge on racism for the masses all the time too. And with prominent Black actors who are known for speaking on race, like Debbie Allen, Kelly McCreary, Chandra Wilson, Jason George, Sara Ramirez, Jerrika Hinton, and literally huge chunks of the huge cast, how did Ellen get it so wrong!?

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THIS IS A LINE FROM THE SHOW YOU’RE ON, ELLEN
So, what went wrong here? Ellen Pompeo is surrounded by intelligent Black people. She has a Black husband and Black children. What in the hell would possess her to dust off a seasoned racist’s repertoire and pull the “I have a Black friend” card? Why would she think it’s ok to use her family as a shield like that? I can’t understand it.

Ok, ok. Let’s back up, cus admittedly this post is already a train wreck in regards to organization (in my defense, when are any of my posts organized?) This whole mess started when Ellen responded to a fan criticizing her for using brown skinned emojis. I’ve noticed this before, but I never thought anything of it. If anything, I thought it was kinda cool. But, in true Ellen fashion, she “clapped back” and joked on this kid about her emoji usage. Ok. Fine. Whatever. What happened next was a culmination of both Ellen Pompeo’s inability to keep her mouth shut and clearly her lack of self-awareness. Critics of her initial tweet were free game and the actress quote tweeted in abundance, as usual. Where it started going downhill was the first tweet I embedded up above; some dude tweeted “SHUT UP WHITE LADY” and Ellen had to make it known that she is a white lady with a Black husband and children.

Fuckin. Yikes.

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If you don’t know why this is wrong, then, Jesus, I don’t know, read a book? I don’t know how to help you. I googled why it’s a problem and this great article was the first result, so click on the hyperlink if you want me to do 100% of your research for you. It seems glaringly obvious why this language is unacceptable to me, but I mean, if you can’t understand why using your friends or your family to absolve you of your racism is not ok, then you need to read the link above. And also do some research of your own.

Anyway, the entire situation devolved from there. Ellen ticked off two major points on the “I’m not racist, buuuuuuuut” checklist, with her implications that reverse racism is just another form of racism. (Click this link if you also somehow read my blog, but didn’t know that that’s also not a good thing to say). Those two tweets were the most inflammatory to me personally, but perusing her timeline it’s clear to see a large part of Ellen’s How to Fail as an Ally display was that she has a burning desire to always have the last word.

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So much of what was said could’ve been avoided if she just stopped responding to random followers. But the more she did, the more explosive the tweets became, which only garnered more backlash from fans who, like me, were beginning to get more and more upset with what was happening in our feeds.

It was just a weird couple hours, starting with Ellen defending her use of brown-skinned emojis to her admitting that she thinks maybe reverse racism is real, maybe. It was definitely a roller coaster ride. And it harkened back a lot to my old post where I discuss how nervous it makes me being a fan of white celebrities because you just really never know when and to what extent the racist shit will flutter out of their mouths, or Twitter fingers.

“That’s why having white faves is so scary for me. These vanillas could slip up and say something racist at any moment. White people can be, and usually are, painfully unaware of racism and it often shows.”

When something like this happens, it’s confusing and disappointing and hurtful. I had a lengthy conversation with my Grey’s friends about what this meant to us, especially because the show itself is what brought us together in the first place. We talked about it as it happened in real time and as Ellen got more and more offensive for the world to see. At first, we thought the emoji tweet was no big deal. Then came the “but my Black husband tho” tweet and we were concerned. An hour later the discussion of reverse racism had us ready to put this entire day in rice. It was draining and sad and just upsetting.

Here’s a woman who, again, is literally surrounded by Black people who I mean have got to be having these conversations in real life, a woman who should’ve been safe from stepping into that trap, and still she fell victim to revealing her true feelings on Twitter. All because someone said it’s sus that she uses brown emojis. Like?

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Here’s your emojis, Ellen
In “The Dangers of White Faves,” I talked about popular incidents that happened where white celebrities stirred up similar controversy and said how uncomfortable it made me even though I wouldn’t classify these people as my “faves.” Now it’s Meredith freakin’ Grey, who I’ve been rooting for literally since I was in eighth grade. This hurts, y’all.

I don’t know what’ll happen tomorrow, or if her co-workers have already had private discussions with her about how she royally and publicly fucked up. I already know Shonda remotely shut down her phone when she caught a whiff of what was going on. For now though, for me it’s just kind of a thing I have to process. Just a few days ago me and my friends were talking about how Ellen is our white auntie who we’d invite to the cookout; today the conversation is about how do we move on from this and will an apology happen and if it does, will it undo the thousands of young kids who saw the tweets and think having Black friends gives them a free pass to be racist, or the false notion that reverse racism exists? It’s a lot to unpack.

“…it’s scary to me to cover up and move on from a thing like that. And it’s worrisome to me to think that someone I like could end up needing a cleanup crew like that. And while I have faith that my precious vanillas would never step out of line like that, there’s always that dull buzz in the back of my mind knowing that they could.”

I hope some positive discourse comes from this, but I doubt it will. I’m hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. And I’m sad that I have to even think that, but what other choice have I been given here? A Different World producer and director Debbie Allen and magical Black girls Kelly McCreary and Jerrika Hinton work on the same show as her, but Ellen Pompeo clearly still doesn’t get it. She herself has posted Black Lives Matter Instagram pics, but still can’t understand why what she said was wrong? What more do people of color have to do to get white people to understand?

And, for the record, no; Ellen Pompeo can’t be trusted to use brown emojis anymore.

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