Ava DuVernay’s coming-of-age miniseries on the life of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is coming to Netflix this week. In a conversation with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the “When They See Us” director discussed the formative moments Kaepernick experienced that she found resonance in, and the microagressions she’s faced that have impacted her to this day.
“I hope people don’t walk away from this and say ‘Oh, this was a piece about Colin Kaepernick,'” she told Amanpour. “I hope that they come out of it thinking about their own journey.”
“And I’m not saying that in a sweet, saccharin way,” she continued. “I’m saying truly this is about the little things that happen to you that you just hold dear and you don’t really even think about how it affects who you have become.”
She added: “Our road takes all these little turns based on small things, microaggressions…something someone said to you.”
DuVernay revealed that someone once told her she had “dark elbows,” and because of that, she never exposes them.
“When I’m getting dressed, I always think about it,” she told Amanpour. “This is what life is. It’s the little things that change us, that go deep. And that’s what I want to show.”
The six-part series, “Colin in Black & White” focuses on issues of race and identity, chronicling Kaepernick’s teenage years growing up with White adoptive parents (played by Nick Offerman and Mary-Louise Parker). Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the US national anthem in 2016 as a silent protest against racial injustice became a political lightning rod. He has since been left off the NFL roster, but continues to be an important cultural figure for his unyielding activism.
DuVernay also spoke to Amanpour about the recent decision to remove of a statue of Thomas Jefferson from New York City Hall and said Americans should reconsider who is memorialized.
“If you’re owning 600 human beings, are you worthy of having statues in public spaces because of something good that you did over here?” DuVernay asked. “It’s a worthy conversation. It’s about taking a closer look at our American heroes and really not accepting the established narrative…”
Though Kaepernick has remained in the spotlight as an activist since being excluded from the NFL, he recently said in an interview with Ebony magazine that he wished to return to professional football.
DuVernay told Amanpour: “As a friend, that’s not my wish for him.”
“I don’t wish for anyone to go into an unhealthy, racist environment,” she continued. “That is what the National Football League in the United States is, straight up.”
Last June, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell posted a video to social media after multiple Black NFL players called on the league to take a stronger stance against racism following the killing of George Floyd.
“We the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of Black people,” Goodell said. “We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.” He did not mention Kaepernick by name.