5 Biggest News Stories of the Week: March 31

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. How the World is Celebrating Transgender Day of Visibility

Today marks International Transgender Day of Visibility, which is a day celebrated annually on March 31 to celebrate the achievements of transgender and gender-nonconforming people while raising awareness about trans rights. 

President Joe Biden will recognize the occasion later Thursday by announcing actions in support of transgender Americans. One of those actions is to give people the option to choose “X” as their gender on U.S. passport applications. And starting this year, the Social Security Administration will no longer require transgender people to show proof of identity or a doctor’s note to update information about their gender. 

“Transgender people are some of the bravest Americans I know, and our nation and the world are stronger, more vibrant, and more prosperous because of them,” Biden said Wednesday during a Presidential Proclamation. “To transgender Americans of all ages, I want you to know that you are so brave. You belong. I have your back.”

In Canada, Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, issued a statement on International Transgender Day of Visibility.

“We honor the resilience and unbreakable spirit of transgender, Two-Spirit and non-binary people and celebrate their diversity and many contributions. As we work toward building an inclusive Canada, we also commit to speaking out against the harmful impacts of transphobia, discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, and intersecting forms of discrimination,” she said. 

Ien added that everyone deserves to live life as their true, authentic selves, free of discrimination – yet this isn’t the case for many transgender and non-binary people. Transgender and non-binary people continue to face negative mental health effects, unemployment, homelessness, harassment and bullying. They are also “often victims of violence simply for being themselves,” she said. 

“We also know that Indigenous, Black, racialized people, and people with disabilities experience an added layer of inequity. This is unacceptable, and we must do better,” Ien added.

2. NFL Makes Changes to the Rooney Rule

The NFL has adjusted the Rooney Rule to mandate the hiring of offensive assistant coaches and more women. The rule was adopted in 2003 and was put in place to promote the hiring of Black coaches. It has been amended over the years to include promoting people of color to other positions as well. 

This latest amendment to the rule will require all 32 clubs to employ an offensive assistant coach who is a woman or is a person of an ethnic or racial minority. The offensive assistant coach will have a one-year contract and work with the head coach and offensive staff. 

The NFL also put together a new diversity advisory committee this week, which consists of business leaders, academia and Rick Smith, former general manager of the Houston Texans. The group will review policies related to diversity hiring in the NFL. Currently, there are five minority head coaches in the NFL.

3. Educating Teams on Different Religions and Cultures

Many corporate calendars focus on Christian holidays, but with a diverse workforce comes different cultural and religious practices, which organizations should recognize to create a truly diverse and inclusive workforce. 

How can businesses do this? The first step is for management to make educating its teams on different religions and cultures a priority. Those at the top of the workplace food chain should read up on the workplace rules from the Federal government regarding religious discrimination and accommodation in the workplace. They should also familiarize themselves with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which requires employers to prohibit discrimination based on religious beliefs. 

The act also requires employers to “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s “sincerely held religious, ethical and moral beliefs or practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.”

4. Florida School Promotes Diversity and Inclusion Through Art Displays

Despite growing controversy over whether to teach about racism in America, a school in Sarasota, Florida, is teaching students about diversity, inclusion and mental health through art displays. 

The 50 billboard-size artwork displays were created by local nonprofit Embracing Our Differences, and the works of art are featured in Sarasota’s Bayfront Park. Students are brought in by bus to view and learn from the works of art. When asked if they learned something from the exhibit, many students raised their hands. 

Sarah Wertheimer, Executive Director of Embracing Our Differences, told PBS that having the kids visit and interact with the displays has been positive, but there have been some challenges. Those challenges include students having difficulty being able to express themselves after being in isolation during the pandemic. 

“They have been either on their Zoom screen or they have been told not to interact with others who they don’t know as well,” she added.

She said most students are “excited to be able to express themselves and to connect with one another.”

5. Murder Rates Higher in Red States than Blue States

Data from news organization Third Way shows that the per-capita murder rate is higher in states that voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election than in states that voted for Joe Biden. 

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2020 showed a 30% increase in murder in the U.S. in 2020. While the data for 2021 hasn’t been released yet, Third Way’s data, pulled from yearly crime reports in all 50 states and reliable local news sources, shows that murder is once again on the rise – especially in red states. 

For example, Jacksonville, Florida, had 128 more murders in 2020 than San Francisco in the blue state of California. And on average, the 25 states Trump won in 2020 had a 40% higher murder rate than those states that Biden won. 

The Top 10 states with the highest murder rates are:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Louisiana
  3. Kentucky
  4. Alabama
  5. Missouri
  6. South Carolina
  7. New Mexico
  8. Georgia
  9. Arkansas
  10. Tennessee

Of those states, New Mexico and Georgia are the only blue states on the list.