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TV Reviews : 'Intolerance' Probes World Racism

May 14, 1994|DAVID SCHEIDERER

What is the biggest problem facing the world today? The population explosion? Pollution? War? CNN's documentary "Shades of Intolerance" doesn't flat-out say so, but it makes a good case for racial intolerance, a problem that each generation must deal with and that none has yet solved.

Anchored by Susan Rook, "Shades of Intolerance" looks at the dilemma of racism around the world, with CNN correspondents filing reports on the influx of refugees that has led to the rise of neo-Nazism in Germany, Afrikaner resistance to black majority rule in South Africa and the treatment of "outsiders" in Japan, a nation that has lived for centuries in self-imposed cultural isolation.

Telling a painfully familiar story, the program will be most valuable to those unfamiliar with the problems of intolerance in any of these far-flung locations.

Most interesting to the uninitiated is Brazil, a country in denial. Most whites there, who make up less than 50% of the population, claim there is no racism and cite Carnival as a shining example of that nation's tolerance. But the racism is economic, with almost all of the black and mixed-race population living in dire circumstances. In Brazil's legislature, only 16 of 503 deputies are black.

But it is in the United States where the problem seems most intractable. A quarter of a century ago, the Kerner Commission warned that the United States was becoming two unequal societies, one white and one black. Correspondent Gene Randall cites the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the fact that there are three times as many blacks as whites living in poverty as proof that the problem remains unsolved.

* "Shades of Intolerance" airs at 6 p.m. Sunday on CNN.

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