On October 29, former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick released a limited series on Netflix entitled: Colin in Black & White. The series follows Kaepernick's high school years, being what seemed like everyone's second choice, and even his adoptive parents.
This series displays various hardships of being Black in America. Kaepernick highlights what he went through to become the civil rights activist he is today.
A few things sparked my thoughts as I watched Kaepernick narrate each episode showcasing his Black pride by dressing in all Black and wearing a signature look for the Black community: the Afro.
In one episode, Kaepernick discusses how as Black people, we tend to require, maybe even need, a "white man's stamp of approval" to validate our lives.
When I heard this, my ears perked up. Not because I believe in Black Power, but because this is a harsh reality I have noticed but never heard a Black person say aloud.
As a younger and even potentially more radical person who stands firm in her Blackness, I loved what Kaepernick had to say about his life and how he felt he needed the "white man's stamp of approval" to have a career in sports.
This concept applies to my journey as well. At one point, I believed that to be successful, even wealthy, a white person has to give me the okay to do something each person with human rights is entitled to.
Recognizing this, I told myself that I would live the life I wanted and not what white people approved or wanted.
Now, let's backtrack to 2016 when Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem during his sixth season with the 49ers. This act is meant to be a peaceful gesture to respect those who lost their lives serving in the U.S. military. As a result of his kneeling, Kaepernick was then portrayed as anti-American and was told by Former President Donald Trump that he and others who stood with him "should leave the country."
This is American patriotism at its finest.
Fast-forward to 2021, Kaepernick continues through his series to show how he had to adjust his looks for, again, that "white man's stamp of approval" to play the sport he loved. Having white adoptive parents made living in his Blackness almost impossible.
Kaepernick looked up to NBA legend Allen Iverson or A.I. A.I. changed the perspective of the NBA and what society deemed to be acceptable during his years in the pros. Iverson did things his way. He wore his hair in cornrows, expressed love for rap and hip-hop, and even dressed with style and culture. Iverson lived in his Blackness which inspired young Kaepernick to do the same.
Sheltered by white adoptive parents, Kaepernick was told he looked like a "thug" for choosing to braid his hair. He unwillingly had to cut his braided locks to, again, attain the "white man's stamp of approval" to continue his high school baseball career.
I, too, understand as a Black woman what it is like to be told certain things you could not understand. Being Black and attractive is offensive to those outside my race and within it. Kaepernick has done something unprecedented with this series. As an activist, he has shown the disparities in growing up Black and gifted in a white-dominated world.
As a Black man, he has changed the dynamic for Black stories and Black excellence by "trusting his power" and creating a platform for Black individuals like myself where that "white man's stamp of approval" is no longer required or necessary. As a whole, the Black community needs to trust its power to initiate, establish, and maintain equality and justice for us all.