5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: March 3

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. People of Color Fleeing Ukraine Feel Trapped at Borders

People of color leaving Ukraine amid Russian attacks who are immigrants and students in the country have reported instances of discrimination at the borders.

ABC News reported that Adeyemo Abimbole, a Nigerian student studying in Ukraine, said that he and a group of African students had been waiting for a train to Poland for three days but were told to wait, adding that priority to board the train is given to women, children and the elderly.

While it is standard for these more vulnerable populations to be evacuated first, Andrew Geddes, a professor of migration studies and the director of the Migration Policy Centre, told the news outlet that men from Africa and Asia who are third-party nationals living in Ukraine who are not going to join the Ukrainian army feel “trapped in this situation.”

There are train cars going to Poland for non-Ukrainian men, but nonwhite refugees said they feel as if they were discriminated against because of their race.

Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said in a Tweet that the country’s government “spares no effort to solve the problem.”

Kuleba added that: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has affected Ukrainians and non-citizens in many devastating ways. Africans seeking evacuation are our friends and need to have equal opportunities to return to their home countries safely.”

2. All-Female Black WWII Unit Awarded with Congressional Gold Medal

Women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-female, Black unit that served in World War II, were awarded a Congressional Gold Medal this week after members of the House voted on it in a 422-0 vote.

The unit was also known as the Six Triple Eight and the women oversaw sorting and routing mail for American service members and civilians while stationed in England. During their time there, the unit was said to have solved a mail crisis and served as a role model for more Black women to join the military.

While the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion achieved great things, the 855 members have only started to be recognized in recent years. A documentary titled “The SixTripleEight” was created in 2019 and there are talks of a movie being made. There’s also a monument in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, honoring these women. In 2019, the unit received the Meritorious Unit Commendation.

Wisconsin Rep. Gwen Moore, who sponsored the bill to honor the 6888th, told the Associated Press that these women were an all-Black “trailblazing group of heroes” who faced “both racism and sexism in a warzone.” Despite that, she said they “closed massive mail backlogs” and made sure letters from loved ones made it to service members.

She added that the Congressional Gold Medal was necessary considering the little recognition these women received upon returning home from their service.

3. Estée Lauder Forces Executive Group President to Leave Company Over Racist Instagram Post

After sharing a racist post on Instagram of a fictitious children’s book, Estée Lauder has asked Executive Group President John Demsey to leave the company.

In a statement to employees, Estee Lauder’s Executive Chairman William P. Lauder and President and CEO Fabrizio Freda said Demsey was asked to leave as a result of his post, which does “not reflect the values of The Estée Lauder Companies.”

The company added that the post has “caused widespread offense,” and was damaging to the company’s “efforts to drive inclusivity both inside and outside our walls, and do not reflect the judgment we expect of our leaders.”

Estée Lauder said DEI is a top priority for the company and it has advanced its approach to racial equity over the last two years while examining where the company can do better.

4. Biden’s More Moderate Views Could Lose Him Black, Progressive Voters

In the first State of the Union address of his presidency, President Joe Biden signaled an election-year move to the center, which is part of a strategy he hopes will “protect fragile Democratic majorities in Congress,” the Associated Press reported. Some say this move could lose the support of young voters and Black voters who helped him win in 2020.

In the address, Biden focused on Republicans’ wants to strengthen the United States’ southern border with little mention of climate change. He also talked little of voting rights and his nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson for Supreme Court Justice.

While Biden is trying to stabilize the Democratic party, he said things that could be alienating some of his supporters. He said U.S. police need more funding, which came across as tone-deaf considering Black Americans are still waiting for Biden to deliver police reforms as he promised nearly two years after the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

It seems the White House believes there is more to gain for the Democratic party by meeting voters in the middle who are worried about rising crime rates than with voters focused on police brutality.

According to a February poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, only 34% of respondents said what Biden has done in office is good for Americans. In contrast, 29% said what he’s done has been negative for Black Americans, and 36% said what he’s done so far has been neither good nor bad.

5. FEMA Looks to Address Staffing Shortages, Lack of Diversity Among Its Workforce

After receiving results from a survey conducted by RAND Corporation that showed employees were not happy with policies and workers were facing civil rights violations based on sex, race and ethnicity, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been working to improve the work experience for employees through its Cultural Improvement Action Plan.

FEMA has been working since July 2018 to implement better programs and services for its employees, which include forming an Office of Professional Responsibility, conducting mandatory training sessions and offering counseling to employees.

In 2020, FEMA took a first step in the plan toward improving organizational health by creating the Cultural Improvement Plan and releasing a second updated version of it in 2021.

The plan also looks at addressing discrimination and harassment found through the third-party RAND report. Findings from the report showed employees did not trust senior FEMA leaders, felt that there were barriers to reporting civil rights violations, and employees who did report misconduct and violations felt they experienced retaliation.

FEMA said it will work more toward addressing harassment and civil rights violations as part of the plan over the next 12 months, which was said after the second version of the plan was released in June 2021.