"If you feel defensive, you’re part of the problem," the actress said.

Olivia Harvey
Aug 19, 2020 @ 3:29 pm
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ellen pompeo from grey's anatomy
Credit: Emma McIntyre, Getty Images

Ellen Pompeo of Grey’s Anatomy fame is responding to hate she received on an Instagram post she made yesterday, August 18th, about Black infant mortality rates. The actress had shared a screencap from a recent CNN article that reported Black babies are three times more likely to die in infancy when looked after by white doctors. According to the article, a study from George Mason University found that the Black infant mortality rate decreased between 39% and 58% when Black babies were looked after by Black doctors. This research coincides with existing numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health that state Black infants are 2.3 times more likely to die postpartum in comparison to White infants.

In her initial post sharing the article, Pompeo wrote, “These stats are EVERYWHERE... white healthcare professionals in L&D listen UP.... what is the problem? You are all out here looking shameful!! Let’s get to the root of this once and for all please. Let’s heal not kill... examine racism in medicine please everyone repost this.”

Though the actress was simply aiming to bring awareness to these statistics by sharing the post, many of her followers got defensive in the comments, with some healthcare workers claiming they know first-hand that the study's findings are false. One such comment read, “Are you serious Ellen this is a crazy post as a nurse I can tell you this makes no sense—investigate before you post bullshit it makes you look uneducated.”

In a video posted on her Instagram today, August 19th, Pompeo clarified her message and drove home the importance of creating change based on fact-based evidence. “I’m not accusing anybody,” she said. “These stats are real. They’re everywhere...It’s not fake news.”

She continued, “And if you’re seeing that post and you’re getting defensive—number one, I’m making this video because I don’t want people to go into their workplace and take their rage and aggression and defensiveness out on their black coworkers—but let’s think about why that post makes you so defensive and makes you so mad. It should make us mad, but not for the reasons you all are mad.”

“It should make us mad because people should walk into a hospital feeling safe, feeling protected, and feeling that they’re going to be okay,” Pompeo said in the video. “And I have news for you people, that’s not how black women feel when they go in to deliver babies. It’s not how the majority of black people feel when they go into hospitals to see a white doctor, a white nurse, or white healthcare professionals.” 

The star concluded, “If you feel defensive, you’re part of the problem...We should have empathy and sympathy and just say, ‘How do we heal? How do we fix this?’ The point is, we can all be part of the solution.”

Defensiveness is often a sign of a person being uneducated and/or in denial that they might be wrong and part of the problem. Researching facts and being open and willing to help right wrongs, as Pompeo says, is the only way we can start to move forward.