It's easy to see why Colin named the series Black and White. It's also easy for me to feel his frustration as a Black person in America but what about a candid take from a white perspective? I asked for one ... let me know what you think.
When you’re a kid and you pick up that ball for the first time, be it big or small, something you throw in a spiral or something you kick with finesse, that’s all you’re doing. Picking up a ball. Out of sheer innocence and curiosity. We don’t pick up that ball at 5 years old and know that the game it represents will bring us the greatest joy in one moment and the most severe heartache and unkindness in the next. We fall in love with sport for the love of the game and for most of us athletes it’s a for better or for worse type of deal. Nobody tells you at 5 years old that you’re going to endure devastating career ending injuries that will affect you for the rest of your life. Nobody tells you that you’ll dedicate your entire young life to the sport but fall short of your dream with no backup plan. And nobody told me that I wouldn’t make teams because of the color of my skin. Nobody told me that one because as a white athlete in America, that would never be true.
I didn’t exactly know what to expect when I turned on Colin in Black & White. I knew that I would probably learn a lot about Kaepernick’s unique childhood, and how he came to play a pivotal role in standing up for the racial injustices occurring in our country. I knew that Ava DuVernay is a phenomenal producer who knows how to tell a good story. I knew that I probably didn’t know as much about Kaepernick as I thought I might have. And I knew that it would probably make me uncomfortable because I didn’t grow up as a black athlete in America.
Being uncomfortable is a good thing, it leads to growth. When Colin compared the NFL combine to a slave auction, it made me uncomfortable. Not because I felt like it was wrong or like it wasn’t an accurate description. But because I knew that as a white woman, I would never really be able to understand his perspective. Can I learn from it? Yes. Can I support it? Yes. But I can never understand it from a personal standpoint (but I did think the Ketchup bit was funny). Every episode touched on an issue that I won’t ever have to face but it did so in such a way that you just want to reach out and help a young Colin, you want to tell his parents to stop ignoring the fact that they have a black son, you want to tell him that it’s okay to be himself.
What I absolutely loved about this series was that it gave me a chance to put myself in Kaepernick’s shoes and honestly; relate to all of the ways that I couldn’t relate to him. It’s not that I haven’t seen shows or films that depict the wide-spread culture of racism in this country. Or that I haven’t accepted the privilege I have as a white person and tried to put myself in shoes that differ from mine. But Kaepernick’s story touched me in a way where I could do more than listen and support. I’ve done the road trips to the middle of nowhere, the weekly summer tournaments and the random hotels. I’ve gone to the college camps and done the high school tryouts. I could relate to him so much as an athlete. I thought about what it might be like to walk into one of those hotels and be immediately profiled and all but kicked out. What it would be like to be giving my everything on the field in front of coaches who couldn’t see past the color of my skin and treated me accordingly. As an athlete, I understood what I simply will never understand; what it’s like to be black in America.
I watched this series as a white woman but I also watched it as an athlete. I give massive props to Kaepernick because he bridged the gap for me. Watching the way Colin grew up painted the perfect picture as to why he chose to utilize his platform in the way that he did. His kneeling while in his uniform, just before he goes out to play the game that he loves, was his way of finally knowing how to rebel. It wasn’t so much that I learned a bunch of stuff that I didn’t already know from this series, but more so that it was presented to me in a way that I could see it and understand it rather than hear about it and do my best to support it.
When you fall in love with the game you play, you don’t know that with it comes discrimination, it becomes politicized. You don’t get an advanced warning that there is a game within the game and that game is formulated for a specific type of player, a white player like me. Being a black athlete in America is a barrier, there’s no other way to describe it. Performance and skill are put on the back burner and the color of your skin is the biggest obstacle that you face. We give our professional athletes such celebrity status and massive platforms but we don’t expect them to have opinions? To express their feelings? Whether you agree with Colin’s stance or not - you can’t ignore that he is standing up for young black athletes like him who haven’t yet found their way to do it themselves.