“In the wake of recent events that have sparked a national dialogue, American Denial explores the power of unconscious biases around race and class. Using Gunnar Myrdal’s 1944 investigation of Jim Crow racism as a springboard, the film shows how unrecognized, unconscious attitudes continue to dominate racial dynamics in American life.”
“Follow the story of Swedish researcher Gunnar Myrdal whose landmark 1944 study, An American Dilemma, probed deep into the United States’ racial psyche. The film weaves a narrative that exposes some of the potential underlying causes of racial biases still rooted in America’s systems and institutions today.
An intellectual social visionary who later won a Nobel Prize in economics, Myrdal first visited the Jim Crow South at the invitation of the Carnegie Corporation in 1938, where he was “shocked to the core by all the evils [he] saw.” With a team of scholars that included black political scientist Ralph Bunche, Myrdal wrote his massive 1,500-page investigation of race, now considered a classic.”
Watch the trailer to PBS’ documentary: American Denial:
Some quotes from the interviews:
“If you take the idea of equality of opportunity, if you take the idea of fairness and justice, and you put those up against the reality, you have a conflict. Can you be in denial of those things indefinitely? Or at some point, do stories you tell about yourself have to confront reality?
“This basic conflict between American ideals and American reality is something that Frederick Douglass recognized. It’s something that W.E.B. DuBois recognized. Maybe they didn’t listen enough until it was something that was said by this Swedish expert from outside the country.”
If you think that we are living in a state of equality, democracy, justice, fairness, then maybe the beliefs that you hold dear prevent you from seeing the reality of your social world.
Professor Vincent Brown, Harvard University
“The American creed has been used as a weapon against African Americans and poor people in this country. If you in fact accept the reality of the American creed as really describing the situation on the ground in American society, then you have a group that is not living up to expectations. Then it must be because this group down here is inferior.”
Professor James Sidanius, Harvard University
“And I think this isn’t just a phenomenon that goes on among white folks. It goes on in the Black community as well, where Black folks say “well, if you just pulled up your pants, if you just stayed in school, if you just act right…” and it allows us to become blind to the structures that are in place, that trap people at the bottom.”
Michelle Alexander – The New Jim Crow
The narrative before American Plymouth, in many ways, was that Blacks are not fit, that there is something defective biologically. But what we’ve moved into today, is a culture narrative. And so, it’s not that Blacks are unfit as a population or species, but that the culture is not fit. Those people don’t really belong. Those people aren’t the good Americans. They’re not like us.”
Professor John A Powell – Berkeley University Law School
Curated from PBS