In his 1944 study of the 'Negro Problem' in America, Gunnar Myrdal posed a simple, disturbing question: How can Americans espouse a belief in liberty, equality and equal opportunity while enabling openly racist Jim Crow practices against black citizens? American Denial uses 'the Myrdal question' to probe and expose the power of denial and unconscious bias in what some have called a 'post-racial' America. The film's narrative cross-cuts between past and present, between Myrdal's investigation --and his own personal struggle with denial-- and 21st century stories of racial injustice that we overlook while insisting on the preeminence of the ideals of liberty, justice and equality.
The film's original artwork and photo-montage reenactments brings viewers face-to-face with racist 'stop and frisk' practices, our incarceration crisis, and racially patterned poverty. The film introduces psychological testing that reveals white implicit bias toward African Americans, as well as African American's negative attitudes toward themselves. Historians, psychologists, sociologists and Myrdal's family members offer expert insight, but also share their own personal, unsettling stories. The result is a film that challenges our assumptions about who we are and what we really believe, while illuminating a pattern of racial oppression that we have actively recreated throughout history to the present moment -- while just as actively denying its consequences.
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