Tags: historical sociology, inequality, race/ethnicity, apartheid, racism, robert f. kennedy, south africa, subtitles/CC, 00 to 05 mins
Access: audio and transcript
Summary: This is an audio excerpt from Robert F. Kennedy's famous "Day of Affirmation" speech given at the University of Capetown, South Africa on June 6, 1966. I use the first 1 minute and 20 seconds from Kennedy's speech to introduce the racism section of my Social Problems course. The speech begins with Kennedy describing a country beguiled with a history of slavery and racism. During this time, the audience (including the contemporary listener) seemingly assumes Kennedy is describing South Africa. Near the end of this introduction, however, he reveals that he has been describing the United States. Once revealed, the crowd dramatically bursts into applause. I play this audio in class, repeating it once, with the text of the speech displayed on PowerPoint so that students can read along; I find that the piece sets an effective tone for the enormity of the racism discussion to follow. The clip is also useful for stimulating students' sociological imaginations, as Kennedy succinctly lays out the Unites States' racial/racist history. With sociological imaginations engaged, I go into a brief history lesson of racial construction in the U.S. before going into contemporary facts/figures. The PBS documentary RFK in the Land of Apartheid: A Ripple of Hope (2009) chronicles Kennedy's South African trip at the height of South African and American apartheid; check out the film's website to view the trailer and other useful teaching materials.
Submitted By: Beverly M. Pratt
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