Country-pop star Maren Morris has taken a strong stand with a surprise release that she calls a “protest song,” “Better Than We Found It.” An accompanying video, also dropped late Thursday night. addresses the issues of immigration and police shootings of Black men, as they’ve unfolded in Nashville.

“I wanted to write something to address exactly how I feel right now, and this came together pretty quickly,” Morris said in a statement. “It’s a protest song. It’s the most American thing to protest, and protest songs have been so embedded in American culture: Bob Dylan, Nina Simone. I think the world right now is sort of in a perpetual mourning period, and I wanted to have a song that had weight but also had hope.”

The music video, directed by Gabrielle Woodland, depicts the plight of the families of two young men in Nashville — one a Dreamer, Gustavo Flowers, who has a notice to appear in court before ICE, and the other a young Black man, Daniel Hambrick, shot to death by police in 2018. After showing footage of Black Lives Matter marches, the video ends with a more than minute-long letter Morris wrote to her young son, Hayes, who she says was “born the year the world stopped turning.”

“I still have hope for this country and for the future of it,” Morris said in a statement, “and as a new mother I wanted to promise my son that I’m going to do everything in my power to leave this world better than the one I came into and the one I see right now.”

Morris has been increasingly upfront about her social views on Twitter, but “Better Than We Found It” represents a bolder step still. Her song and video are bound to stir some controversy, given the amount of hostility that recently greeted a country queen of longer standing, Dolly Parton, when she made far less pointed and direct statements recently. Responding to a question about recent protests, Parton said, “I understand people having to make themselves known and felt and seen. And of course Black lives matter. Do we think our little white asses are the only ones that matter? No!” Parton came in for a fusillade of online criticism and trolling as a result.

With her smash “The Bones,” Morris recently became the first female solo artist to have a song land at No. 1 on the country chart for multiple weeks since Carrie Underwood managed it in 2012. The song subsequently crossed over to pop formats, topping the AC and Hot AC charts and landing in the top 20 at pop. She won two honors at the Academy of Country Music Awards in September, including best female vocalist. Morris is nominated for five awards at the Country Music Association Awards in November.

“I think Maren says it best in her letter to Hayes when she states, ‘Our education must grow along side our empathy,’” said the video’s director, Woodland. “In present day America, we’re constantly told what to think about certain people, their lifestyles and situations that might be ‘different’ than the average American experience. For this video, Maren wanted to break down the barriers that separate us and remind everyone that, at the end of the day, we are all the same. We are all human and we need to take a lot more time to listen and understand each other. The political climate we live in right now doesn’t give a lot of room for people to converse, and it’s so easy look at our world in black and white. Maren and I both thought it was important to highlight real stories happening to actual people.”

The lyrics of the new song, co-written with Jessie Jo Dillon, Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz:

If you don’t like it, then get the hell out
That’s what they yell when I open my mouth
A stick is a stick, a stone is a stone
But who’s gonna care if I don’t?
Who’s gonna change if I won’t?

When time turns this moment to dust
I just hope that I’m proud of the woman I was
When lines of tomorrow are drawn
Can I live with the side that I chose to be on?
Will we sit on our hands, do nothing about it?
Or will we leave this world better than we found it?

Over and under and above the law
My neighbor’s in danger, who does he call
when the wolf‘s at the door all covered in blue?
Shouldn’t we try something new?
We’re over a barrel and at the end of one too

America, America divided we fall
America, America God save us all
from ourselves and the hell that we built for our kids
America, America we’re better than this

When time turns this moment to dust
I just hope my son’s proud of the woman I was
When lines of tomorrow are drawn
Can I live with the side that I chose to be on?
Will we sit on our hands, do nothing about it?
Can we leave this world better than we found it?