Colin Kaepernick, Ava DuVernay Break Down Importance Of Cornrows In Exclusive Clip

The Netflix series "Colin in Black and White" explores the activist and former NFL player’s unique struggles coming to terms with his Blackness in white spaces.

A young Colin Kaepernick getting cornrows is a major event in “Colin in Black and White,” the Netflix series based on the activist’s upbringing.

In an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip, Kaepernick — who ignited a movement among athletes when he kneeled during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice in this country — discusses the mission behind the limited series, which premiered on the streamer in late October.

“One of the things that we wanted to accomplish in telling these stories was being able to paint black and white pictures, giving people references of what microaggressions may be,” Kaepernick says. “Being Black adopted into a white family, that becomes an obvious aspect of this.”

The clip explores the importance of young Kaepernick’s (Jaden Michael) decision to get cornrows and the reaction and attitudes of those around him, especially his two white parents and students at his predominantly white school. Executive producer Ava DuVernay said a reason they explored race through hair is because “hair is just a stand-in for anything that has been oppressed, managed, controlled” for Black people.

“All of the stuff we talk about here is political,” DuVernay says. “And so that story about him wanting to get braids has so much historical, cultural context and a real social impact too that we need to understand.”

Nakoya Yancey, who’s been a hairstylist for 28 years, braided Michael’s hair for this series.

Michael spoke of young Kaepernick’s “need to be embraced by his Blackness” and the obstacles that come with that in the series.

“In [Episode] 101, there’s all this clash between family and by [Episode] 106, Colin’s like, ‘I know you guys don’t approve of this,’” he says. “I know you guys don’t approve of my relationship with Blackness, but I still love it.”

Jaden Michael as young Colin and Xosha Roquemore as Erica in episode 101 of "Colin in Black and White."
Jaden Michael as young Colin and Xosha Roquemore as Erica in episode 101 of "Colin in Black and White."

DuVernay, actor Klarke Pipkin and steadicam operator Xavier Thompson also talk about their experiences dealing with microaggressions and macroaggressions surrounding their hair and identity.

Kaepernick also touches on the show’s approach to educating audiences.

“Part of what we’re able to do with this is give people those references and those pictures of what this looks like so when it happens, they can acknowledge it and deal with it,” Kaepernick said.

“Colin in Black and White” is now streaming on Netflix.