Colin Kaepernick is well known as not just a former 49ers quarterback, but as the leader of a social justice movement that rocked the National Football League (NFL). Now, in the new dramatic series Colin in Black and White, the audience gets an insight into Kaepernick’s upbringing that made him into the activist he is today. The six-episode series delves into the complexities of identity, culture, and race that Kaepernick faced as the Black adopted child of a white family.
Throughout the show, the complicated dynamic between Kaepernick and his adoptive white parents is a central aspect of the plot. Rick and Teresa, played by Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker, are portrayed as well-meaning, conservative, Christan parents who want the best for young Colin. However, they aren’t prepared for, nor do they acknowledge, the racism he faces. Their oblivion when it comes to raising a Black child is directly represented by Colin’s hair throughout the show. In the first episode, Colin is inspired to get his hair braided into cornrows just like a Black friend of his. He pays a visit to a young, inexperienced hairstylist who braids his hair so tightly he is unable to function properly the next day due to a headache. Although Teresa clearly disapproves of the cornrows, she sees Colin’s misery and awkwardly asks her Black coworkers where Colin can get his hair professionally braided. At the new salon, Teresa is overwhelmed with the experience and atmosphere, but she puts in the effort to learn about Black hair care. This dedication conveys a sense of endearment in Kaepernick’s relationship with his parents and demonstrates the positive side to her parenting.
However, this narrative takes a negative turn when Colin’s baseball season begins. His pitching is better than ever, but his coaches are more focused on his cornrows, calling them “unacceptable.” The coach tells Rick and Teresa that Colin needs to cut his hair. Rather than standing up for their son by challenging the double standard, Colin’s parents defend the decision. When Colin protests, Teresa sharply responds, “You look like a thug.” Throughout the entire series, you may find yourself going back and forth with loving his parents and, at times, hating them. The unrelenting support they offer Colin when it comes to sports is heart-warming. But, they often choose to ignore the discrimination he faces and even act on their own biases, as shown by their treatment of his hair, an important expression of his identity.
The conflict around his hair is just one aspect of the series that allows us to understand the motivation behind Kaepernick’s protest in his later years. It demonstrates the overt and implicit racism that he had to face, even in his own home. The series creates an opportunity for the audience to see the true Kaepernick, rather than the demonized version portrayed by his critics. Jaden Michael, who plays young Colin, makes it easy to empathize with him as he grows up. Michael does an excellent job of embodying the driven, smart, and talented athlete that Kaepernick was and continues to be. The rest of the characters are equally compelling, making the show more enjoyable to watch.
Despite Kaepernick’s lack of experience when it comes to acting, he was able to fill the role of the narrator, providing critical context to many scenes. Throughout the episodes, he directly lectures viewers about racial movements and the history behind certain words or stereotypes. The entire series acts as both a history lesson and an insight into the personal experiences that shaped his activism in the future.
Colin in Black and White does an excellent job of educating about racism and the various manifestations of discrimination while being emotionally engaging and providing an interesting storyline, thereby increasing the impact of the series. Its clear nature allows viewers to begin to understand the experience of many Black people in our country and causes the audience to truly empathize with Colin. Whether this series purely educates people or even inspires them to take action against social injustices in our current world, the series creates a positive and profound impact.