Yes, we can: 10 shows that challenge America to be better

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Queen Sugar

What it’s about: Three adult siblings fight to preserve their family’s sugarcane farm — and legacy — after their father dies.

What it’s fighting for: Queen Sugar as a whole covers topics including racism, police brutality, income inequality, the incarceration of black men, and the Confederacy’s pervasiveness in the South. The series’ mouthpiece for many of these issues is Nova, the eldest Bordelon sibling. An activist and journalist, she raises awareness about the economic and political disenfranchisement of black communities in post-Katrina New Orleans. She’s also vocal about how black individuals, especially men, are disproportionately punished for drug crimes, as well as the horrifying rate at which young unarmed black people are killed by police.

Nova is the most openly political character on Queen Sugar, but her opinions are obviously shaped by her and her family’s life. The Bordelon patriarch’s business couldn’t compete with the wealthy white farmers’, and he had to take up a custodial position in order to make ends meet. Nova’s brother, Ralph Angel, served a few years in prison and struggled to catch a break once he made parole.

Charley, the middle Bordelon sibling, is mixed-race; her mother is a wealthy white woman. As such, Charley always felt caught between two identities: she’s either the black woman in a white world, or the white woman in a black world. However, she never truly reckoned with the plight of the black working class until she returned to Louisiana. Charley was subjected to the same racist business practices as her father, and her son became victim to the local police force.

A portrait of a close-knit black family in the American South, Queen Sugar’s aspirations might seem humble at first glance. But the show really lives by the mantra, “The personal is political.” Queen Sugar presses for an end to racism and the marginalization of black communities via its characters. Nova, Charley, Ralph Angel, and their loved ones deserve more, and so do their real-world counterparts.

Where to watch: Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Hulu. Season 3 is currently airing on OWN.