DVD cover: American Denialby Llewellyn Smith
ITVS/PBS, 2016
60 min

“I was shocked and scared to the bones by all the evils I saw.” ~ Gunnar Myrdal

In 1938, Swedish economist and Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal was invited to come to the US and do a study of the “Negro problem” (really, the American civilization problem).

With the help of his wife, in 1940, he published his study, An American Dilemma, which offered insight into the contradiction of the American ideas of freedom, equality, and democracy, and the blatant and brutal discrimination and dehumanization of black people.

The film includes archival and news footage, interviews, and more to highlight our ability to deny reality and rationalize our biases and the ways in which our actions violate our beliefs. It uses Myrdal’s study to explore whether racial equity and our ability to overcome our bias have meaningfully changed since that time.

Use American Denial as a springboard for discussing racism, systemic oppression, implicit bias, cognitive dissonance, power, and similar issues.

Download a discussion guide for the film from Independent Lens.