5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: March 17

As the saying goes, the news never stops — but there’s a lot of it out there, and all of it doesn’t always pertain to our readers. In this weekly news roundup, we’ll cover the top news stories that matter most to our diversity focused audience.

1. Policies Defended in Florida Could Start a ‘Culture War’

 With the passing of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and other policies in Florida, some are saying the state is ground zero for a “culture war.”

There’s speculation that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is passing hard-right policy bills to appeal to the state’s GOP base in an election where the “Governor’s Mansion, three Cabinet seats and all 160 seats of the Florida Legislature are up for grabs,” Politico reports.

Republicans have controlled the state for 25 years, which has led to tax cuts, looser regulations for businesses and clashes with teachers’ unions for charter school vouchers.

Other controversial legislative issues in the state include a proposal that would prevent abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, increased immigration enforcement and HB 1 or the “anti-riot bill,” which DeSantis approved in April 2021.

While Republicans are making hard-right moves, they are being challenged by people and companies in the state and throughout the nation.

Florida Sen. Shev Jones, a Black Democrat who is the first openly gay senator in the state, tried to convince the GOP Senate to weaken the bill, although his efforts did not work.

Disney gave money to politicians behind the bill, so employees of the amusement park and entertainment giant staged walkouts. Disney CEO Bob Chapek apologized for having nothing to say at first on the matter and said the company would stop political donations in the state for an “undetermined amount of time.”

2. Racism Evident in Media Coverage of the Ukraine-Russia War

Much of the news right now is focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — and rightfully so. But racist comments have been made by journalists in coverage of the topic, which is a bigger issue of how the American media perpetuates “these racially driven issues and impacts how even the most well-intentioned reporting is carried out and passed on to the public,” Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Contributor Brian Good writes.

News anchors and reporters from various media outlets have described Ukrainians as being “relatively civilized,” “European people with blue eyes and blond hair being killed,” and “prosperous, middle-class people” who “look like any European family you would live next door to.”

It’s been shown that Americans tend to pay less attention to people involved in wars in other parts of the world, and they’ve been conditioned to do so because they don’t look like them. They can’t relate to them.

MSNBC’s Joy Reid pointed out that “the coverage of Ukraine has revealed a pretty radical disparity in how human Ukrainians look and feel to Western media compared to their browner and Blacker counterparts, with some reporters using very telling comparisons in their analyses of the war.”

She added that “we don’t need to ask ourselves if the international response would be the same if Russia unleashed their horror on a country that wasn’t white and largely Christian because Russia has already done it — in Syria.”

3. Memorial Dedicated to Race Equity Underway in Boston

One of the largest memorials dedicated to racial equity in the U.S. is being constructed in the Boston Common, which is one of the oldest public parks in the nation.

A rendering of “The Embrace” memorial, which is set to be unveiled in Boston Common on MLK Day in 2023. (Photo: The Castle Group/Hank Willis Thomas/MASS Design Group)

The 22-foot-high memorial, named “The Embrace,” is being designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas and architectural firm MASS Design Group.

The bronze statue will have four intertwined bronze arms, paying tribute to the social justice values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. The Boston Commons was chosen as the home of the statue because this is where Dr. King led 22,000 people in a march for civil rights from “a playground in Roxbury down Columbus Avenue to the Boston Common,” according to the New England Historical Society.

The groundbreaking for the memorial is set to take place in April and the completed project will be unveiled on MLK Day in 2023.

4. Director of “Black Panther” Mistaken for a Bank Robber

“Black Panther” Director Ryan Coogler was arrested in January after he attempted to take out $12,000 from a bank in Atlanta.

The situation was misinterpreted by a teller at the bank who told her boss she suspected an attempted robbery. The police report says Coogler was wearing a COVID-19 mask, a hat and sunglasses and handed a withdrawal slip to the teller with a note saying he wanted to take the $12,000 out of his checking account. It also said he wanted the money counted elsewhere to be discreet because he was taking the money out for a medical assistant who worked for his family and wanted discretion because of the large sum of money needed.

An automatic notification was triggered since the amount was over $10,000. The teller then told her boss she suspected a robbery and the police were called. The teller told a newspaper she feared for her safety.

Coogler was briefly detained and released after proving his identity. He told TMZ that the “situation should have never happened.”

5. Toddler Schools Cashier on Why She Wants a Black Doll

Brandi Benner’s Facebook post of a photo of her daughter holding a Black baby doll and the story behind it has gone viral on social media.

Benner’s post shows her daughter Sophia, who is white, holding the doll with a huge grin on her face, which she picked out at a Target store as a reward.

When checking out, a cashier asked the girl if she was going to a birthday party and buying the doll for her friend. After receiving blank stares from Sophia and Benner, she then asked if she was sure that was the doll she wanted. Sophia said, “Yes, please!”

The cashier then told Sophia and her mother that the doll didn’t look like her and that the store had “lots of other dolls that look more like you.”

Benner said Sophia still insisted she wanted the Black doll and responded to the cashier saying: “Yes, she does. She’s a doctor like I’m a doctor. And I’m a pretty girl and she’s a pretty girl.”