I hope you find these self care lessons from Colin Kaepernick and Ava Duvernay’s magnificent series Colin in Black and White helpful. Lá Breith Sona Duit! Penblwydd Hapus! Happy Birthday, Colin!
Disheartening as the Virginia election results are, this phenomenal programming will help the gazillions of people growing up (and grown up) now who, like Colin, KNOW racism is wrong struggle to articulate it.
While they (we) might not have the knowledge, wisdom or understanding, Kaepernick and co are helping to fill those gaps.
Scenes from his life are interspersed (The Good Fight style) with little explanations going behind what might appear like a small thing to some but which is deliberate.
I’m drafting this on Colin Kaepernick’s birthday (3/11) and am in awe, as I was watching the entire Netflix series, of how much he’s done in such a short (so far) life.
If you’ve not yet seen the series, in which Colin himself steps in and out of scenes from his high school years, you won’t regret watching it as soon as you can.
Know that you’re beautiful
Being a teenager is hard enough.
Being told that your hair is bad purely for the way it grows naturally is horrifying. Being forced to cut the cornrows he was so proud of and felt so himself in was a disgrace.
His parents’ role in that reminded me of the awfulness of politicians like David Lloyd George forbidding Welsh people from speaking Welsh (or my Indian grandfather, who, like my Irish grandfather, died several decades before I was born, forbidding his children from speaking Konkani, the native language of Goa, where their family was from). In Lloyd George and my grandfather’s case, it was internalised oppression. They believed their people would fare better in a world in which they adopted the styles and language of the oppressor.
I also hope that Crystal, whoever and wherever she is now, knows that SHE is beautiful.
As Kaepernick says:
‘Maybe they didn’t want us to see our beauty because they knew, if we did, if we controlled our own narrative, we’d be unstoppable.’
Know that other people’s bigotry is NOT YOUR FAULT
One of the most heartwrenching elements of the series was his relationship with his white adoptive parents. At one point, Narrator Colin says he’d never been anyone’s first choice.
While they were able to show their love for their son in some ways, in others, their cluelessness was painful to watch and I can only imagine how awful for him to live through.
Children – ADULTS – need to be seen and heard in our full humanity. Their attempt at living a colour blind life left Colin completely alone in facing the trauma of endless racist microaggressions.
Sometimes, THEY were the ones responsible (not putting up the dance photo of him and his beautiful Black high school girlfriend Crystal, saying he looked like a thug and vaguely commenting, ‘She seemed nice’ about a racist white lady at a hotel.’
Kaepernick said, ‘I knew it wasn’t right. But I didn’t have the knowledge, wisdom or language to fight back.’
Interpersonal trauma is especially painful (natural disasters and the like aren’t deliberate). We need other humans to help us heal. The fact that Colin’s primary caregivers couldn’t even recognise the daily assaults on his Self was horrifying.
I hope that they’ve been more supportive of Adult World Changing Colin.
His knowledge, wisdom and understanding now is helping countless others navigate this world.
Trust your power
The message behind the whole series is so important in 2021, when world leaders and governments seem utterly shameless when it comes to corruption and exploitation.
In scene after scene, Teenage Colin perseveres. He keeps training. He keeps studying.
Back in 2016, when he started to Take the Knee as a peaceful, silent protest against police brutality against Black people, he probably had no idea the gesture would be adopted around the world. He also may not have known he’d lose his job as quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and be reviled by so many.
But game after game, he took this stand. In an intervew about the series last week, Ava Duvernay told Christiane Amanpour that Kaepernick still trains and is STILL ready to go back to the NFL.
Colin not only played High School American football but also basketball and baseball. He was so good at baseball that he had countless scholarship offers for that sport when the time came to go to college.
These sports and the training schedules would have given him a strong grounding in the importance of habit and practice. Some scenes showed it going too far (him being ordered to run through a headache and fever, playing a game after literally being sick) but his strength as a teenager has helped him become this man with world changing integrity at such a young age.
When you hear the phrase ‘Trust your power’ what springs to mind for you? What or who do you feel called to speak up for? What will help you feel grounded enough and safe enough to step into your power?
We live in a time where many people seem to be rewarded for being bullies. For being corrupt. For doing the wrong thing, time and time again.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do your best to live a life of integrity and few people exemplify this more than Kaepernick.
By keeping his word to himself, showing up and persevering as a teenager, he wasn’t immune to the pain of rejection (so much rejection!) but he kept on doing what he could do.
Everyone was trying to push him towards baseball because that’s where the offers were coming from. But he wanted to be a quarterback.
‘Rejection is not a failure,’ Narrator Colin said. It’s a calibrator. It can help you learn who you are and what you want. Your path will sometimes be rough but trust your power.’
I also imagine the extra level of microagressions and downright racism he faced as a baseball player factored into his decision but even without that, he was good – excellent – at three sports (as well as having a 4.0 grade point average) and knew his heart was in American football.
It would have been SO easy for him to cave and accept a future that while others would have leapt at it didn’t light HIM up.
What are you good at which simply doesn’t feel like your path? Being good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it! Even if you have to work much harder to be as good at what DOES light you up, it’ll be worth it.
Write a letter to your Younger Self
The final episode has Grown Colin share a letter with Teenage Colin and it was incredibly moving. (You may have come across Gayle King’s book, Notes to Self – if not, you may love this delightful anthology of success stories going back in time to share hardearned wisdom with their younger selves).
To do this, simply allow a time in your life to spring to mind for you.
It may have been a challenging time. You may have felt alone and misunderstood. Whenever it was, sit with it for a few moments. You might want to grab a photo if you can and look at ____ year old you.
Write Younger You a letter. Send love and compassion as well as wisdom and other resources down your imaginary timeline and help heal this Younger You.
Write a letter to your Future Self
According to author David DeSento, Emotional Success: The Motivational Power of Gratitude, Compassion and Pride, one of the reasons so many people struggle to do the kind of things Future You will thank you for is because we don’t know our future selves well enough to have empathy and compassion for them.
Connecting with your Future Self can help you stay motivated to make all sorts of decisions that will contribute to a better LIFE for Future You (from eating well and exercising to saving for retirement and nourishing relationships).
One way to do this is to set an alarm each week and get to know Future You.
Imagine yourself at a point that springs to mind (90? 105?) and write Future You a letter.
Send this hard to imagine you love and compassion and get a sense of what she / he / they needs from you.
How have you found doing these self care practices?
What are you going to do differently as a result?
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