“Kaepernick & America” explores the duality of colorism and the limitations of respectability politics; it also describes Kaepernick’s early fall from grace in the eyes of conservative fans after he faced criticism for his appearance. The coded language used by anchors and other spokespersons to describe Kaepernick’s appearance felt like an attack on his blackness. We see the fall from grace creeping ever closer as Kaepernick became further identified with his African-American heritage from his pro-black Instagram posts to his hairstyle. Kaepernick is another example of the public castration of politically conscious black celebrities.
Although the document approaches this topic well, it fails to stick the landing. Kaepernick is no longer involved in the conversation he started, and this documentary is an example of why. He did not feel like a character but an ideal. Like many documentaries, the interviews begin to become an interruption of Kaepernick’s actions rather than providing insight into them. This external interview format is useful at first as the audience is re-introduced to Kaepernick, and when reviewing the events of the protest, but falls flat when trying to explain the legacy of Kaepernick’s actions, a story still being written.
The end of the film is like a last minute desperate attempt to appease a white audience. It’s as if the documentary wasn’t allowed to be released if the cultural impact of racism wasn’t neatly tied up in a bow. Kaepernick’s protest was not a harbinger of what was to come, so much as a pronouncement of what was already happening. It was an expression of frustration over the residential killings of black people by police, a problem that has plagued African-American communities for generations. But even if it’s all a little too neat, this documentary about Kaepernick is valuable in reminding viewers how far we still have to go.
On request today.