American Denial

February 21, 2015

Chicago Cultural Center
78 East Washington Street, Chicago, IL, USA



Follow the story of foreign researcher and Nobel Laureate Gunnar Myrdal whose study, An American Dilemma (1944), provided a provocative inquiry into the dissonance between stated beliefs as a society and what is perpetuated and allowed in the name of those beliefs.His inquiry into the United States’ racial psyche becomes a lens for modern inquiry into how denial, cognitive dissonance, and unrecognized, unconscious attitudes continue to dominate racial dynamics in American life. The film’s unusual narrative sheds a unique light on the unconscious political and moral world of modern Americans. Archival footage, newsreels, nightly news reports, and rare southern home movies from the ’30s and ’40s thread through the story, as well as psychological testing into racial attitudes from research footage, websites, and YouTube films.

Hear from experts — historians, psychologists, sociologists and Myrdal’s daughters — all filmed directly to camera. Witnesses work to exhume unconscious feelings Americans have about themselves and others — fascinated by the Myrdal question, and by how much true thinking and feeling unfolds in social contexts in an unconscious mode. What are the implications for individual responsibility and social justice in democracies like America’s?


1:00 PM – 1:30 PM:
Come early to take the Implicit Bias test. Tablets will be provided (courtesy of Chicago Freedom School) and test assistance provided by Chicago Council on Science and Technology.
You can also take the test in advance here:

1:30 PM – 2:00 PM:
Carlee Beth Hawkins of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Project Implicit will lead a presentation and discussion about implicit bias before the film.
How do basic mental processes impact our perception, judgment and action as social beings? In what ways do we develop expectations, beliefs and attitudes about social groups? Could the discovery of our own implicit bias be a starting point towards changing attitudes and behaviors?

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM:
Screening of the film American Denial

3:00 PM – 4:30 PM:
A discussion about racism and implicit bias in the U.S., with David Stovall, Associate Professor of Education Policy Studies and African American Studies at UIC, Ric Wilson, artist and organizer with BYP100 and young leaders from Chicago Freedom School.
Moderator: Brandis Friedman, Correspondent, Chicago Tonight, WTTW

Presented by ITVS and WTTW in partnership with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Chicago Council on Science and Technology and the Chicago Freedom School.

FREE but RSVP as seating is limited: