It’s no secret that black women have been routinely shunned from political and media circles since the dawn of our country. While recent decades have seen an improvement in the way that black female commentators are treated in the mainstream media sphere, there’s still a long way to go when it comes to bringing equality to our political scene. What’s worse, every day that passes by where black female commentators are silenced is another day where broad swathes of Americans are denied an opportunity to hear their valuable input and unique perspectives.

Here’s why we need more black female commentators, and why we can’t expect discrimination to end until we see real equality in media circles.

The media defines the conversation

There’s no use ignoring the fact that today’s national media apparatus defines the national conversation, especially when it comes to the most pressing political issues of our time. If the country’s leading newspapers and most popular cable news outlets cover an issue, you can be sure that just about everyone will at least hear about it. That’s why it’s so important that the media brands who bring news and unique insights to broad masses of Americans need to include black female commentators, unless we want to see their voices and perspectives ignored.

To put it bluntly, so-called “objective” news reporting is now a thing of the past; few media companies try to market their reporting as entirely objective and unmoored from political biases these days, and those few that do are almost never believed by the audiences that consume their content. More often than note, today’s citizens get their news from political commentators and opinion contributors, who saturate our airwaves and timelines with their hot takes every time a new issue erupts. Unfortunately, black women make up precious few of the commentators currently delivering their opinions to the American people.

If average citizens, including those who may be complete demographic opposites of black women, can’t hear the opinions, perspectives and experiences of black female commentators, how can they ever be expected to empathize with the plight of a group of minorities who are so frequently targeted by those in power? Women of color are grossly underrepresented in America’s newsrooms, and you’d be hard pressed to find many outlets willing to give an opinion show over to a black female host.

Even black female commentators who are already in positions of power are under relentless assault. Take Joy Reid, who’s perhaps the most notable black woman in the American news and information ecosystem, and the ceaseless attacks that have been leveled against her, particularly in right-wing corners. Fake news reports were circulated that her show was being cancelled — though such reports were patently false — and conservative pundits on social media platforms celebrated and attacked her with glee.

Equality won’t happen until we’re heard

The long and short of this issue is simple — until black female commentators have a voice on America’s airwaves and a place on American television sets, we’ll never truly attain the equality that the constitution decrees every person is entitled to. Historically speaking, black women have been shut out of the halls of power time and time again. Today, a writing service crusade to strip voting rights is still ongoing, and black women regularly find themselves the targets of public smear campaigns.

Don’t expect any recourse for this, however; black women are also overwhelmingly underrepresented in American political arenas. Whether you’re looking at the national level towards the congress and the senate or at a local level in just about any city in the nation, you’ll find a dearth of black women when it comes to leadership positions. A history of women of color in congress shows steady improvement, but we won’t ever see real representation in the political sphere if our voices aren’t heard in the media world.

As long as black women exist, they should expect to get attacked and made the target of politically and racially charged crusades. We learned long ago there’s nothing we can do about that except fight back. If black women really want to fight against oppression in a meaningful way, we need to ardently campaign for more female voices that represent us on the airwaves. We know the immense power of national media outlets — they reach literally millions of Americans at home and millions more abroad. What kind of message are we sending if people only ever see white men or white women, and are rarely exposed to a black female perspective?

A media renaissance that sees a renewed focus on placing black female commentators into major media positions is long overdue. Until black women are heard over the airwaves and are fairly represented in opinion columns and on commentary talk shows, equality will never be made a reality in America.