Colin Copernicus is known in the US as a quarterback in the NFL. He rose to worldwide prominence and fame in his own country. When he became a civil rights activist and – shortly after that – ceased to be an NFL quarterback. Kaepernick aroused admiration and condemnation.
When he played the US national anthem in a 2016 preseason game. In protest of US police brutality and racial inequality. Following several police shootings against black people and the mighty rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
His actions inspire more players to join him in such acts:
President Trump at the time recommended firing such players. At the end of the season, his team manager. The San Francisco 49ers, told him they were going to let him go.
A move that was seen as politically motivated rather than practical. Even though the 49ers claim he’s no match for you. New coach plan. Its activity has increased and has remained unsigned ever since.
Colin in black & white (Netflix) tells the story of his formative teenage years. The six-part collaboration between Kaepernick and Ava DuVernay (directed by Selma and creator of the great play When They See Us. For a young black man accused of rape and beatings in Central Park) is a bold, shaped, and inspired creation. It takes your breath away. To educate, if not more than entertaining.
It’s a mix of straightforward drama featuring a young Copernicus (played brilliantly by Jaden Michael in his first leading role). A two-race negotiator about the complexities of growing up in a white adoptive family. And commentary from Copernicus himself.
His parents, Rick and Teresa (Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker). They are loving but limited in their understanding of what is needed and what is needed. Much of the first episode focuses on Copernicus’ growing desire to braid his hair. Like his basketball character, Alan “The Answer” Iverson.
(Like many professional athletes, Kaepernick was skilled in almost any sport given to him in high school.) It is a symbol of growth, perception of black culture, and perhaps rebellion.
Her parents were reluctant to support her (Teresa enlisted the help of a black colleague to find a hairdresser). And stood by her coach and school if her new look was deemed “unprofessional”. This model repeats itself: with them, with the school, with the coach, with the team, with the whole world.
With increasing age and greater involvement in football:
Racist microaggressions and fewer microaggressions accumulate. And injustice increases when coaches push less talented white students in front of them. And refuse to recognize or reward their talents. He’s told to stop being “too ambitious”. A mere encapsulation of the tyranny of low expectations, as you’ll find.
Narrative drama (which involves traditional emotional beatings. Like the tough but fair coach his father found for Colin. Who was the first to believe him honestly) is often stopped. Comments and presentations from Kaepernick break the fourth wall.
He is a captivating presence who demonstrates his activist point of view. And speaks to the audience directly. And uncompromisingly to highlight the broader impact, context and perspective. The main message is always the one that is explicitly said in the second episode. “Some people will say that the system is broken. I’m here to tell you that it was built on purpose.”
The series also includes statistics (for example, black mortgage applicants are turned down twice. As often as white applicants) and news material. Such as a 2011 photo of Kelly Williams-Bolar during a “crossing the border” crime trial. To use the child’s father’s address to meet conditions for a much better school.
For which he spent nine days in prison. Sometimes, there are historical reenactments. Such as when Copernicus compared NFL draft picks. Where players were weighed and measured by nearly equal-sized white team owners and managers. Their championships were field-tested at an auction.
There are times when these different modes cut end-to-end current:
But primarily, they work. Overall, they create a captivating viewing experience. That leaves us feeling uncomfortable enough in form and content to stay alert without feeling alienated. Which, of course, is the goal of an activist.