It’s Football Season: A Review of Colin in Black and White

Nothing goes together better than North Dakota Quarterly and football, right? After all, we’ve discussed baseball (here and here), cricket, cycling, and even had a poetry editor who holds the record for most interceptions in a season at the University of Massachusetts. When you think about, putting NDQ and the NFL together seems entirely appropriate.

We are also very fortunate to have Eric Burin on our editorial board. Burin is among the foremost experts on Colin Kaepernick and has written what I still regard as the definitive academic treatment of Kaepernick’s 2016 protests and their aftermath. (You can download that essay and a bunch of other critical engagements with Kaepnernick’s protests in a work that he published with The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota in 2018). In the latest issue of the Quarterly, Burin brought his expertise to bear in a review of the recent Netflix documentary: Colin in Black and White. This isn’t an ordinary review of a television program. Instead, Burin considers how Kaepernick, his supporters, and his critics have sought to narrate the story of his now famous (or infamous) protests. Check out Burin’s review below (with a download link).   

As you likely know, these days are particularly challenging for many cultural institutions, publishers, and little magazines. If you’re here on our website, you must have already found something of interest in NDQ, and we really would love for you to subscribe. But, if NDQ doesn’t float your boat, consider buying a book from a small presssubscribing to a literary journal, or otherwise supporting the arts. I heartily recommend grabbing a copy of the new issue of Hotel Amerika which is celebrating its 20th anniversary by publishing an anthology of some its most creative, provocative, and stimulating work. Grab a copy here

“The Black Hero’s Journey: A Review of Colin in Black and White
Eric Burin

Colin in Black and White, created by Ava DuVernay and Colin Kaepernick, ARRAY Filmworks and Netflix, 2021. Netflix, netflix.com/title/80244479

In August 2016, Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL), protested racial injustice by silently sitting (and later kneeling) during the US National Anthem (Wyche). Kaepernick’s demonstration ignited a political firestorm, with some hailing him as a trailblazer for Black freedom, others disparaging him as an ungrateful traitor, and still others insisting that what actually divided Americans was not Kaepernick but the racism he challenged. All the while, Kaepernick remained steadfast to his cause, both on and off the field (kaepernick7). Ultimately, his resolve cost him his job: though no serious student of football doubts that Kaepernick was an NFL-caliber quarterback, by March 2017 he was effectively blackballed from the league (Bois; Lockhart).

By then, Kaepernick was an international icon. Among other accolades, Time magazine named him among the world’s one hundred most influential people (Harbaugh). At the award ceremony, Kaepernick met another recipient, Ava DuVernay—a filmmaker who has produced many celebrated works, including several that explored the Black experience in America, such as Selma and 13th. After the event, Kaepernick and DuVernay kept in touch. In a November 2017 interview, DuVernay discussed Kaepernick’s past, present, and future, noting that he was both “walking history” and seeking new means of shaping the world. Perhaps privy to his plans, she added, “And I believe he’ll find a way to do that” (Madison).

Download the rest of the review here!

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Eric Burin is a Professor of History at the University of North Dakota and editor of the open-access anthology, Protesting on Bended Knee: Race, Dissent, and Patriotism in 21st Century America.

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