Colin in Black & White, a Netflix series developed by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and director Ava DuVernay, is, at best, an interesting failure. Its story mostly concerns the racial awakening of Kaepernick, who was raised by white parents in a very white world. The great Nick Offerman plays Colin's father, the equally great Mary-Louise Parker plays his mother, and Jaden Michael, a very talented young actor, plays Colin. The performances by these actors are irreproachable.
Colin Kaepernick narrates the story in an imaginary space that, from my Gen X perspective of popular culture, recalls Carl Sagan's Spaceship of the Imagination. Kaepernick watches his life on a screen in much the same way Carl Sagan watched the wonders of the universe on the screen of his spaceship in the 1980 mini-series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. And in the way Sagan explained these galactic wonders (gas clouds, the formation of stars, the pulsars) with scientific facts, Kaepernick explains, with far less finesse than Sagan (let's be honest about that), the scenes from his life from a historical perspective that can be called woke, a state of mind that even Dems are growing a distaste for.
Democratic political strategist James Carville blamed his party's recent losses and weak performance in state elections on "stupid wokeness" on Wednesday...
"What went wrong is just stupid wokeness. Don't just look at Virginia and New Jersey. Look at Long Island, look at Buffalo, look at Minneapolis, even look at Seattle, Wash. I mean, this 'defund the police' lunacy, this take Abraham Lincoln's name off of schools. I mean that — people see that," Carville said.
In this post, I do not want to get into the tragic self-destruction of the Democratic Party, which needs black voters to survive, but is now attacking these very voters for demanding equal treatment from the enforcers of the law and a realistic account of American history. And I say tragic because the Dems are more likely to pursue voters who irrationally fear Critical Race Theory than people who daily experience structural racism in America's system of law and order.
Nor do I want to get into the controversy caused by a sequence near the opening of the first episode of the six-part series, "Cornrows," (the only episode Ava DuVernay directed) that compared the NFL's scouting system with slavery.
Yes, Megyn Kelly and many others, did not like that scouting/slavery scene.
The NFL comparison is, of course, clumsy, as it fails to account for a considerable structural difference between the valuation of enslaved bodies (forced to supply labor) and the bodies of wage-earners (forced to sell your labor) in a neoliberal era that has universalized the quantification of performance (metrics). As the underappreciated French theorist of business management Eve Chiapello explained in her 2014 essay "Financialisation of Valuation", the world we live in "appears to be marked by a rise, in all areas of life, of a wide range of quantifications intended for purposes such as to assess performance or inform service users, consumers, or financial backers. Quantified assessments are increasing, and among them specifically economic assessments." Slave capitalism is qualitatively distinct from neoliberal capitalism.
What I want to point out instead is that the series reveals something that is not discussed enough when it comes to professional sports, particularly basketball and football, which is the overrepresentation of blacks. Why do black Americans dominate the NBA and the NFL? Is it because their bodies are biologically better for sports? Or is it something else, and if it's something else, what is this something else?
In Colin in Black & White, we see a series of racial macro-aggressions and micro-aggressions that, when added up, resulted in Kaepernick taking the knee and pissing off a lot of white football fans and politicians. The mini-series, which is clearly directed at white viewers, explains the knee, explains where it came from, and why it had to happen. Though most black viewers will learn little from the Education of Kaepernick, I fear a good number of them will find inspiration in his determination to become a quarterback in the NFL. This is the part of the story that needs to be interrogated.
How is it that a black boy with great grades and all of the resources of middle-class white teenagers, ends up in the NFL? Or almost a professional baseball pitcher? Indeed, Kaepernick's high school besty, a white teenager from a class clearly below the family that adopted him, falls into a life of crime. Why didn't Kaepernick become a surgeon? Or a lawyer? Or a professor of history? Was it simply his calling? He had a dream to be a quarterback and he gave this dream everything in him—sleepless nights, hours upon hours of training, a 100% work ethic? This is what the series certainly says to black viewers. Kaepernick realized his American dream (making millions as a professional athlete) and you too can do the same.
But most American teens, no matter what their color, have almost no chance of getting into the NBA or NFL or MLB. But Colin in Black & White is about the nearly impossible, and not the more possible. Seriously, think about it—why is Kaepernick not a doctor? When you watch the series, which is entertaining, keep this always in mind.