Judy Woodruff: And now more reaction to the Hollywood movement to fight sexual harassment known as Time's Up. NewsHour special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault sat down with actor Tracee Ellis Ross of the sitcom “Black-ish” yesterday to discuss where things stand and where they might be headed. Ross, who grew up in a legendary entertainment family, explained what she meant by the term constructive fury.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault:Tracee Ellis Ross, thank you for joining us.
Tracee Ellis Ross: Thank you for having me.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault:I saw you Sunday night so excited when Oprah was accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award. What was going through your mind?
Tracee Ellis Ross: There were a lot of things going through my mind. It was a really special evening for many reasons. Time's Up campaign, I have been involved with and working with, and seeing a sea of the collective power of women, and seeing us all dressed in black sort of set a tone for the evening that was incredibly moving to me, that made me feel a part of a celebration of sisterhood, and an amplification of a very clear and strong message. It was a symbol of action that has been taken and being taken. It was a way that women got to be in solidarity with each other across the globe, in response to saying Time's Up on abuse, and discrimination, and the imbalance of power that exists that makes space for those things to occur.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault: Were you moved by Oprah's message?
Tracee Ellis Ross:If I wasn't moved by Oprah's message, I would be a rock. Oprah's message, as usual, tied into a larger story that is happening in our world and in our country right now. And, of course, she articulated it in the most palpable, powerful way that only Oprah could. And it was a very special moment.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault:I'm just wondering, do you think that's going to translate into action, and do you think that all of the people standing up, especially the men — I don't know what they do in their daily lives, but do you think there was a message that got through to everybody in that room?
Tracee Ellis Ross:I think the message was set up for that moment. I mean, there was a collective force of women in that room already saying action is being taken and action is happening. For example, the Time's Up Legal Defense Fund raised $16 million in two weeks to help support men, women, everyone and anyone who has been affected by sexual violence that need support and legal help. There is systemic change that is occurring in the industry, and I think that is a lot of what Oprah was speaking to. I think one of the things that we all are discovering is that abuse and discrimination, and sexual violence is supported by a system of imbalance, and that it is structural, and not personal, although particular experiences are personal, that the structure that makes space for that and allows that kind of behavior to exist is something that needs to be changed.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault:Several years ago, there was a mass organization around trying to get black issues dealt with. And they broke off into focus groups, and action was on the tip of everybody's consciousness and tongue, and then it just sort of died out. Do you think something was learned from that, and that could be applied to this, so it's more effective and long-term?Tracee Ellis Ross:There is a particular constructive fury that has occurred in response to this administration that has a lot of people focused with a resolute pursuit of equity, that doesn't — isn't just about women, but is about marginalized people across the board, that affects everybody. And so, the hope, obviously, when anyone starts on any sort of journey of change, and structural change, and systemic change, is that it is going to work, but we all know that there are many pieces to that.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault:Is it your sense that those in power, the majority of whom are white men, are actually getting it? And some of them might not have learned from the exposure that those who've taken advantage of women in a variety of ways, sexual and otherwise, is there a sense now that they really are getting it, that it really is a new day?
Tracee Ellis Ross:One would hope. But I think the point is, whether they get it or not, this is what's happening. The curtain has been pulled. The truth is, for a lot of these people, they obviously didn't get it, and it took somebody else seeing it, and somebody else listening to what had occurred in order for this to not be a time of sweeping these things under the rug.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault:And, of course, the Internet now is buzzing with whether or not Oprah should run for office. What do you think?
Tracee Ellis Ross:I think Oprah is incredible, and I think that's a choice for Oprah. We want an answer to what is occurring. And if she's the answer, I will take it. And it's really a choice for her. She's incredible. We all know she's incredible. And there's also a lot of incredible women and men. And I think we will all have to put our heads and our hearts together, and get ourselves out for voting, first and foremost, for the midterm elections. And then we will start to see how all of this unfolds. But I don't think that this is a magic moment. I don't think anything is magic, and I think it's going to require everybody getting involved, and staying involved. And I think that's one of the beauties of Oprah, is she has a galvanizing force. She has an ability to really wake people up, and bring us into — each of us, into the best of ourselves. And so, I think there is something very palpable that she brings to a room, and that is what happened at the Golden Globes and in that moment, and she stands for and represents so much of that. And I am grateful that she is in our world. And I do think that time's up, and things have changed, and there's no going back.
Charlayne Hunter-Gault:Well, Tracee Ellis Ross, thank you.
Tracee Ellis Ross:Thank you for having me.
Judy Woodruff:In the coming days, special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault continues her conversation with Tracee Ellis Ross on race in Hollywood.