‘American Denial’ and ‘Hate in America’ Look at Unflattering Truths

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Neil Genzlinger, THE NEW YORK TIMES

(The New York Times)—Here’s a phrase you probably never expected to read: Highbrow PBS and trashy Investigation Discovery have complementary programs Monday night about race and intolerance. Neither is very satisfying on its own, but put them together and they acquire some substance.

The PBS offering is an “Independent Lens” film called “American Denial,” about a long-ago sociological study and its continued relevance today. Investigation Discovery, home to true-crime schlock like “Sex Sent Me to the Slammer,” gets serious for a change with “Hate in America,” in which the journalist Tony Harris explores three recent hate crimes. The pairing is accidental, but the programs go together, one providing historical perspective, the other immediacy.

“American Denial” revisits a study from the 1940s in which Gunnar Myrdal, a Swedish sociologist and economist who would later win a Nobel Prize, looked at the United States, especially the South, and found it to be a land of contradictions. He concluded that its people loved to wrap themselves in American ideals — equality, liberty and justice for all — yet perpetuated a society that aggressively denied those ideals to certain citizens through segregation and repressive law enforcement and judiciaries.

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