It’s only in certain cases that I feel moved enough to take out my computer and write about a television show. The last time I felt the inspiration to comment on something I watched, was after the first episode of Ryan Murphy’s Pose. I am again moved with the tingled feeling of WOW during the first minute of Colin Kaepernicks new show, Colin in Black and White. With a strong production team that includes Ava DuVernay; director of Selma, August 28th, and When They See Us, there was no doubt that this story was going to be told with excellence. There was so much about this that makes it unique in its narration. Breaking the third wall, Kaepernick is looking to his audience, he discusses athletic racism and the comparison of scouting to slave trades. The way they chose to incorporate and acknowledge where society stood as a culture in its view of black people; so it didn’t just target how sports corporations were a singular problem. Doing this all, while telling his story.
He begins in such a personal space where all young children of color first learn they are different in this world. Hair. Any texture headed person knows the struggle of having to tame your hair to fit western cultural beauty standards. How many times a person is told that they look better with their hair straight or face that constant desire for people to touch your hair. Hair is a defining part of people, especially those of us with a texture. There is so much that can be done with it and for those who don’t understand how kinky hair can be shaped and maintained it’s simply summarized into a black thing that does not concern them. We see the word “Thug” thrown into context as well, which is a huge stigma for Colin and young black men to stray away from. Played by Jaden Michael, young Colin is pushed into shaving his head. Colin’s coaches don’t like his hair or the person that it emulates. His coaches and his parents do not see him as a kind young man anymore, in this hair he is stripped of this. That perception of his hair is connected to a look they believe is negative and thus they remove him from himself. We see Colin struggle with this logic and suppress his pain and desire to speak out.
There is such a uniqueness to Colin’s story that comes from growing up in a household where his parents are white and are raising a biracial child. While he is struggling to understand himself in white suburbia he is also developing what he calls white audacity. He has no idea how the world really feels about grown men and women of color, but he does walk with an heir of certainty that comes from the environment that he is raised in. Perfectly played by Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker, there is a clear struggle for his parents to understand him as a black child that is stunted with the culture’s expectations of a well behaved person of color. Using the word “professional” when describing how his hair should look, while we see other athletes with straight hair flow peaking out of their hats. This double standard that is moved by underlying racism strikes him unfairly but this is the struggle of his adolescent years. When the world is telling you one thing and you are surrounded by it, it must be true.
The show goes on to discuss topics such as the white man’s stamp of approval, the resurgence of his suppressed anger, and microaggressions. Some may have called for more subtly in the show’s narration, but there is nothing subtle about the way people of color are viewed as second class citizens. Colin and producers do an amazing job at stopping for viewers to break down and translate how these particular bumps in his story are weaved into the country’s racist past and present. Without knowing anything about football, there is something here for everyone. Be warned viewers, white viewers, you may not want to hear about the ways you do not directly contribute to systemic racism (even if it is a huge part of the problem). For viewers of color, it might bring up some suppressed anger, because it’s frustrating to live this and see it plotted out so eloquently.
Above all, however, and we see this in the last episode, Colin is having “The Conversation” with his younger self and young black and brown kids across the country. I’m referring to the conversation of what it means to grow up in America as a person of color. The ways that we will be doubted consistently and have to show up twice as strong. How, the system that is not made for us is made around us and that does not change whether it be football or corporate America. This is probably what I find most admirable about this show. Colin, obviously growing up without his biological parents, is writing to himself. He was never wrong about the feelings of injustice he had as a young man. No one told him that we don’t all get the conversation. For some it’s summed up into a “be home before the streetlight comes on” and that is all. This show is historic for black storytelling and does an amazing job at not disregarding the truth in his experiences as a young black man.
Writer, photographer, and business woman. There is not much that can’t keep someone with a desire to learn everything from at least trying. Maya is a 23 year old curious and creative Latina with a traveler’s soul. She graduated from Monmouth University and works at After You Thrift Co (@AfterYouthriftco), a thrift store that her and her partner Kiara own together.