Independent Lens‘ American Denial documentary seeks to “expose some of the potential underlying causes continuing to affect implicit racial biases inherent in America’s institutions today.”
Set to premiere on PBS on February 23rd, the Llewellyn Smith-directed feature combines 1940s Jim Crow research by Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal with archival footage, newsreels, home movies, and modern short films.
In his 1944 study, An American Dilemma: The Negro Problem and Modern Democracy, Myrdal argued that “American denial” by white Americans, who explained away the lack of opportunity for blacks by labeling them inferior, justified practices and policies that openly undermined and oppressed the lives of black citizens. That denial and its effects are still evident 70 years later.
Shedding “a unique light on the unconscious political and moral world of modern Americans,” the film also examines “stop and frisk” practices, mass incarceration, and racially-patterned poverty.
Produced by Christine Herbes-Sommer, Kelly Thomson and Smith, American Denial attempts to challenge “our assumptions about who we are and what we really believe.”