The Revolution Will be Intersectional. #QueenSugar Episode 9 Recap
The storm has passed in the Bordelone Hometown. The opening scene of Episode 9 is with Aunt Violet looking over at her debris-covered front yard, with a sigh of weariness, thinking of all the work needed to clean up and move forward.
“What are we going to do with all this”, she sighs.
“We’ve been through worse”, Hollywood replies to her.
These few words are all of us aren’t they? Looking over at America in the aftermath of the storm that is Donald Trump’s imminent presidency, weary, frustrated, afraid, wondering how much work will go into surviving it all. Despite the way in which Trump polarized America, one good thing about his election was that it forced Americans to finally face the the systemic oppression that marginaziled communities had been shooting about for so long. And as a collective rage rises from the debris of this man-made disaster, we now all have to figure out what our role is in cleaning things up so we can move forward. A big part of this endeavor, is for all of us to do the self-reflection where we figure out where we stand in the spectrum of oppression so we can use our privilege to uplift each other at every level. This is the theme explored in Episode 9 of Queen Sugar.
As the Bordelone Family begins the work of cleaning up the farm, Charley, Remy and Ralph head out to the sugar cane fields to assess any water damage. They find two bodies shot and left in the field, two Hispanic men who were part of the migrant workers tending to the farm. When Aunt Vi asks Charley who the two men are, she realizes that she never even bothered to learn their names. To her, they were just the men who were paid to take care of her farm, the men whom she insisted have to keep working in the farm as close as possible to the storm before leaving. Beyond that, they were invisible to her. We witness Charley suddenly becoming aware of her own privilege as a rich, american citizen, but also black woman aware of racism. Here we get an illustration of the mixed identity of oppressor and oppressed, of the complexity of intersectional injustice, and the importance of being aware of where we stand within it all. Charley is a woman who is well aware of racism and sexism against black folks, but never gave a second to the migrant workers (why don’t we call them expats?) toiling away in her farm.
Charley has to call the deputy to report the murders and upon his arrival, Ralph immediately hides in a bedroom because he is terrified of law enforcement, given that he used to be in jail. Aunt Vi comes in to ask why he is hiding. As a collective, black folks have a deep seated fear for law enforcement (given that it’s always open season on us), but there is an additional layer for the formely incarcerated that’s not often considered. Living in the fear that you’re always one mistake away from going back to jail, and often due to circumstances outside your control, is something that many of us don’t have to think about. The formerly incarcerated on the other hand often navigate the free world with that added layer of terror, not including other struggles like finding employment and housing, where the odds are grossly stacked against them.
This mistrust of law enforcement also extends to migrant workers, many of whom are undocumented. This is something that the deputy emphasizes to Nova, who is struck by his nonchalance about the murder of the 2 workers. This tendency to be cavalier about the plight of undocumented farmers, is most certainly something shared by a lot of us isn’t it? There’s a reason why they are considered the country’s invisible population, not just for not having citizenship or work visas, but also for the ways in which they often pass under our social justice radar. Otherwise, we wouldn’t consider vegeterianism to be a more humane way to feed ourselves, while ignoring the countless number of men who break their backs, live in dire conditions, with little access to healthcare, all to bring the freshest fruits and vegetables to our tables.
Not often enough, do we stop to hear their story. But thankfully, Queen Sugar brings us a piece of their story in this following scene where Blue’s teacher comes to translate for the Bordelone Children, as they tell the rest of the workers about the murders of 2 of their friends. We learn about Miguel who was a married father of two, and Alejandro who just got married, expecting his first child. We learn about fathers, uncles, brothers, who leave family behind to come earn enough to try and pull their families out of poverty.
This is truly a #JeSuisCharley case isn’t it, because we are all Charley, with the ways in which we can be wrapped in our own struggles not often acknowledging the intersectionality of our injustices. It can be easy to sink in despair as we examine our future in a Trump presidency, to feel weary like Aunt Vi who upon looking at her home, thought, “What’s the point, it’s all ruined”. Like Nova told Aunt Vi, we have to keep trying. Take all our efforts “ that has been ripped from the ground, put them back in, and they will regrow. Put them back in the dirt and they will take root again”.
We must remember the Mexican proverb which says “they tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seed”. For the migrant workers, the formerly incarcerated, the disabled, the women, the Muslim, all the marginalized communities. We belong to one another, and so do our struggles. What would it look like, if we we buy into the idea that “None of us are free until all of us are free”?