Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ever Slowly, Metro Council Looks More Like Us

Posted By on Tue, Sep 20, 2011 at 6:06 AM

Joey Garrison has an interesting story about the makeup of the new Metro Council. The representation of African-Americans on the council is awesome. Davidson County is 28 percent African-American, and the council is 25 percent.

But the numbers for women don't look so great. We make up 52 percent of the population of Davidson County, and we make up 27.5 percent of the council. This is an improvement, sure, but come on! As Geena Davis pointed out last week at Georgetown, we have a really skewed idea of what "enough" women look like:

No matter where you are, the image of one out of a group being a female looks normal and I think that would explain why, let's say, on a board when they get to one or two women they feel like 'OK, we're done.' Because that is normal.

That's why it's important to keep an eye on how closely the makeup of our governing bodies resembles the makeup of the community. Not because of some liberal agenda to give things to the undeserving that should rightfully go to white guys, but because it's a good bellwether about how healthy the state of our democracy is. Everyone should be able to participate, and we can assume that under optimal circumstances, everyone should want to participate equally, so we should end up with governing bodies that actually represent us. Our ideas of what "normal" looks like should match up with what "normal" actually is.

If half of our community is women and yet we only make up 27.5 percent of Metro Council, something is not yet quite right. We don't have to be 20 or 21 strong, but we should be about half.

The problem is easier to see with Fabian Bedne. He makes up the 2.5 percent of the council that is Hispanic, a population that makes up 10 percent of Davidson county. If Bedne is half as thoughtful about being a councilperson as he comes across in real life, he's going to be a fine addition to the council.

But it says something about how integrated into the political process Hispanic Nashvillians feel that there's only one Hispanic councilperson. Hopefully seeing Bedne in action will give other good potential candidates the feeling that it's possible.

And that is part of why I'm glad to see more women on the council and was glad to see so many women running. It should seem utterly plausible, utterly ordinary for women to govern. It doesn't, yet, but every woman who runs and every woman who gets elected brings that day closer.

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