With the Democratic National Convention now underway, I’m relishing the sight of Black women standing squarely at the center of the Democrats’ big tent.

The choice of Sen. Kamala Harris as presumptive presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate is a nod to the political importance of Black women. After all, 94% of Black women voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, and if Biden wins in November, it will be in part because he received similar numbers from the party’s most loyal demographic.

That’s why it’s no accident that Black women are showing up in key spots in Biden’s campaign. Black political strategist Symone Sanders is Biden’s influential and highly visible senior adviser. Former first lady Michelle Obama is not only the conscience of the party, she is also Biden’s most trusted endorser. And then, of course, there is the historic choice of Harris as his running mate.

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The presence of these dynamic women in key positions is a plus, but we’ve seen Black folks in big jobs before. This time must be different. We must see systemic change that lifts more Black people out of poverty and provides us with equal opportunity. We must witness the dismantling of the legal and political mechanisms that continue to fuel white supremacy. We must see the Democratic Party go beyond talking about racial justice. We must actually see them do something to prove, once and for all, that Black lives matter beyond Election Day.

In the time-honored vernacular of the ‘hood, it all boils down to these seven words: “Don’t talk about it. Be about it.”

It’s not enough to put Black women in key positions. Nor is it enough to buttress their presence with other women of color like actress Eva Longoria — a Mexican American who hosted the first night of the Democratic National Convention. Or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the congresswoman of Puerto Rican descent who will also be featured at the convention. Or even Cardi B, the Bronx-born Dominican Trinidadian rapper who interviewed Biden in the campaign’s latest effort to reach young voters.

We’ve seen this movie before. I am a registered Democrat, but I am also an avowed realist. Putting Black and brown faces up front while repeatedly uttering the phrase “racial justice” does not stop discrimination in lending, employment, education, criminal justice, or any of the myriad systems that treat people of color unfairly.

Racial justice requires action, so don’t talk about it. Be about it.

Of course, the Democratic Party has helped to usher in some change in recent decades, most notably the 2008 election of Barack Obama, America’s first Black president. But in between such electoral victories, the party didn’t do enough to protect the legislative wins of the past.

After passing the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and the Fair Housing Act during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Democrats had to know that white conservatives would stop at nothing to reverse those gains. Yet, Democrats largely rested on their laurels while the racial progress they made was systematically reversed by lawsuits and political maneuvering.

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The year after Obama won reelection, thanks largely to historic levels of Black voter participation, the Supreme Court scuttled the Voting Rights Act of 1965, freeing nine mostly Southern states to change their election laws without federal approval.

“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that was issued along with the ruling. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”

That reasoning seems almost laughable now, as America deals with a racial reckoning that put millions of protesters in the streets after the videotaped police killing of George Floyd, the latest in a long line of unarmed Blacks killed by police.

Yet, here we are, in a moment where the symbolism of Black women in key positions gives us hope. In truth, though, only real legislation and cultural change will make their presence matter.

I don’t care if another Democrat ever says “racial justice” again. The true measure of the party’s dedication to Black women and Black lives boils to a few choice words.

Don’t talk about it. Be about it.

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