While it has been heartening that so many people across Pennsylvania have recognized the importance of decennial redistricting, we must be mindful of what constitutes true “fairness” as we determine who will hold power in Pennsylvania over the next decade. Maps that are not drawn with racial equity as a guiding principle will never be “fair” in any meaningful sense of the term.

Political maps drawn in 2021 must reflect the rapidly changing demographics of our commonwealth and create opportunities for Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color (BIPOC), which historically have been undercounted in the census and neglected as a valuable community of interest in the redistricting discussion.

Pennsylvania’s existing maps perpetuate racial inequity. If the maps drawn in 2021 fail to prioritize BIPOC interest, it will be impossible to judge them as “fair” by any reasonable standard, and the inequities of power will only compound during the 10 years these maps define and enshrine authority.

» READ MORE: Pa. deserves a fifth redistricting commissioner who values the power of the people over the people in power | Opinion

Pennsylvania’s population growth is being entirely driven by growth in the Black, Latino, and AAPI communities. According to the Pennsylvania State Data Center, for every 13 non-Hispanic white individuals lost in Pennsylvania since 2010, the state has gained 13 persons of color. Although people of color make up 23% of Pennsylvania’s total population, as of 2015 its highest lawmaking body — the state legislature — was 91% white.

To be clear, it’s not just Philadelphia and Pittsburgh where this is happening. BIPOC communities are growing statewide: in the collar counties surrounding Philadelphia, the northeast, the Lehigh Valley, and Central Pennsylvania. Our current maps do not reflect Pennsylvania as it is, and this injustice will only grow worse in coming years if we fail to seize this opportunity to balance power.

Ensuring racial equity in our legislative maps will not be easy. If it were, we would already have maps that value the voices of all Pennsylvanians. We are at the beginning of a long and complicated process, and we must remain engaged at every step to ensure that the final product is truly equitable for every single one of our neighbors.

So what does that look like? We need to use the time we have before the census data from 2020 is released to actively and meaningfully engage with all of our BIPOC communities across the state, and we need to truly listen to what they have to tell us. We must do this in order to understand how communities see themselves because that is the only way we will be able to produce truly equitable results.

It is incumbent upon all Pennsylvanians, from all walks of life, to commit themselves to developing a deep understanding of the needs of all our communities, and to have that understanding permeate every step of the process.

» READ MORE: Redistricting will be the definitive political fight of 2021 in Pennsylvania. Here’s how it’ll work.

This means that the media needs to get out and talk to experts from historically neglected communities and use their platform to express the interest of these leaders. The public needs to engage meaningfully in the process. Call your legislators to demand racial equity in redistricting. Use mapmaking software to produce sample maps that promote racial equity and submit them to the redistricting commission. We will only have equitable maps if we, the people, demand them.

The Legislative Redistricting Commission is in the process of choosing its chair. It is critically important that the LRC operates in a wholly transparent manner and allows for meaningful public input into this process. It must hold at least five public hearings before the census data is released and at least two more afterward. It must commit to truly listening to communities whose voices have been marginalized for far too long, and take meaningful action to right these wrongs.

After all, anything less just wouldn’t be fair.

Salewa Ogunmefun is the executive director of PA Voice, a partnership of 44-plus organizations working together to expand power for Black, Indigenous, and communities of color across the commonwealth.