Members of the Metro Council have raised serious concerns this year regarding the diversity of Metro boards and commissions, and a new report from the Metro clerk’s office shows there’s work to be done before Metro boards and commissions reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of Nashville.
On 34 of Metro’s 51 boards and commissions, at least half the members are white, while 23 include a white majority of 60% or more, according to a report completed last month by the Metro clerk’s office.
Meanwhile, only seven of the 51 boards and commissions are majority African American, and only 14 of the boards and commissions have a Hispanic or Latino presence. None are majority Hispanic or Latino.
Of the 408 currently sitting board and commission members, only nine have self-identified as LGBTQ. Just one self-identified as having a disability.
The report was compiled by the Metro clerk’s office, following a requirement adopted by the Metro Council earlier this year.
After considerable discussion last spring around the diversity of appointments and nominations coming from Mayor John Cooper’s office, the Metro Council passed a bill requiring a demographic report of Metro boards and commissions to be compiled each year by the Metro clerk.
Co-sponsored by half of the members of the Metro Council, the legislation required the report to include self-identified demographic information such as ethnicity, gender, LGBTQ status and disability status for each board and commission member.
The initial report, completed last month, includes information through late September.
Because it relies on self-identified information, there is a lack of consistency of racial and ethnic categories between boards and commissions. For example, some board members self-identified as “Arab American,” while others self-identified as “Iranian American” and “Middle Eastern.” One board is described as “20% Jewish,” and another “11% Greek.”
Do demographics of boards and commissions adequately reflect Nashville’s demographic makeup? It appears there’s a long way to go.
According to the most recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau, Nashville’s population is 56.3% white, 27.4% African American and 10.4% Hispanic or Latino.
While boards and commissions do not reflect the same diversity, the last 18 months have seen a shift toward confirmation of more racially diverse candidates than previously.
Since March, the Metro Council has confirmed 62 people to Metro boards and commissions: 32 male and 30 female. Of those, 25 were African American, 18 were white, six were Hispanic, and 14 were other ethnicities or did not self-identify.
The previous year, between March 2020 and February 2021, the council confirmed 112 people to boards and commissions. Of those, 63 were white, 30 were African American, four were Asian American, three were Hispanic and 12 were other ethnicities or chose not to identify.
Between May 2015 and February 2020, the council confirmed 280 people to boards and commissions, of which 158 were white.