Written by Staff Writer
Lindsey Adelman wants to show that Colin Kaepernick was not always a cause célèbre, a player who publicly stands up against the police, the military and other organizations that exploit the rights of people of color. Adelman wants to show that Kaepernick is just a regular teenager trying to find his way in the world, serving as the protagonist in her documentary “Colin in Black & White.”
Adelman, who is not a football fan, knew she wanted to tell Kaepernick’s story after seeing the stories of other African-American athletes who went on to stand for political protests, from the NBA players who sat during the national anthem to NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who publicly kneeled during the national anthem.
That’s when Adelman first heard the name.
“I remember coming in the morning and (thinking) ‘That’s a good name,'” she said. “And then the next week, it was white smoke coming out of the fireplace of my consciousness.”
“It’s about finding Colin in black and white, and seeing the humanity of him. It’s also about showing him as a 17-year-old.”
Adelman, who grew up in Miami, was also concerned that giving weight to her documentary would mean that Americans would view Kaepernick as “that ‘Colin in Black & White.'”
“I wanted to show Colin as a 17-year-old who is still very human,” she said. “The same sort of questions you might have about a human being if you’d heard their story for the first time.”
In some ways, “Colin in Black & White” has been very personal for Adelman.
“This is personal because it’s been cathartic for me, and there were things that I was learning for the first time,” she said. “For example, in the first time that I talked to him, it was the first time that I ever asked him about his racial identity — where he came from, his family background and all of that — and I was learning that through him.”
Before the release of Adelman’s documentary, Kaepernick wasn’t the highest-profile figure on the political left. He had helped spark the 2016 NFL protests by taking a knee and linking arms during the national anthem.
“Colin in Black & White” aims to shed light on the reasons behind his decision to kneel. It shows Kaepernick — and in many ways, the larger African-American community — at their lowest point.
“At that moment, I think everyone felt hopeless,” Adelman said. “But the beauty is that my film really shows us what the possibilities of hope is, and I just don’t believe that any of us have to give up hope.”
In August 2018, Kaepernick took a new approach to his activism by endorsing seven candidates for House and Senate races. The idea, Kaepernick said in a video posted on Instagram, was to help maintain a check on systemic racism.
While Adelman said she respects Kaepernick’s decision to take a more moderate stance on his activism, she wishes he had done more to teach his students about the Black Panthers, his high school’s historical African-American student union.
“What we would not have gotten if it weren’t for the Panthers was the opportunity to learn black history through their consciousness and become interested in it,” she said. “And so I’m really sorry that he did not do that for his students, but at the same time I’m very grateful for that. The other stuff he does for his activism that I applaud, and I am inspired by it.”
In her film, Kaepernick gives a series of interviews with young adults who credit him with taking them out of their comfort zones.
“One of the really cool things in the film is when he’s talking to a bunch of kids — he’s talking to young men — and he says, ‘Once we graduate, that’s the last time that I will meet these people until we meet in a courtroom,'” Adelman said.
“He’s kind of shocking and totally intentional about the intentions behind it. And he kind of literally starts by walking with these kids to be able to meet them, but he does it in a way that he says, ‘To meet me is to give me the privilege of your trust.'”