Growing up in Boston, Ellen Pompeo has admitted she was surrounded by racism — even from her own father. “I was trying to make him examine that every step of the way,” the Grey’s Anatomy star said on Dec. 10’s episode of Red Table Talk. “My favorite thing to do was to have pool parties and invite all my black friends over so that when he would come home from work, there’d be a pool full of black boys.”

Little did her father know, the 49-year-old would ultimately marry African-American music producer Chris Ivery. However, her husband “ended up being [my dad’s] favorite person in the entire world,” the actress dished to Jada Pinkett Smith, her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, and her daughter, Willow Smith.

Getty Images

Ellen and Chris are doing things differently with their kids, Stella, 9, Sienna, 4, and Eli, 23 months. “As moms and dads, we have the responsibility to expose our children to all different types of people,” she said. “To show them the differences in the world.”

While it’s not always easy, Ellen says she doesn’t shy away from talking about race with her children. “A lot of people get nervous when you bring it up, and I understand why they do,” she stated. “At the same time, these are important conversations to have. And if you’re afraid to talk about them, then that’s a problem.”

Ellen is also teaching her kiddos the importance of empathy. “My mother died when I was four,” she revealed. “I think that when you suffer any kind of trauma, especially as a child, you learn compassion. At the root of it, compassion is a great practice.”

So she’s passing along that lesson to her kids — and enjoying every moment with them. Ellen said, “Being a mother is the most fun job I’ve ever had.”

For more on your favorite celebs, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!