Resources to Help You Discuss Racism & Racial Injustice with Des Moines Kids

Resources to Help You Discuss Racism & Racial Injustice with Des Moines Kids

Due to the deaths of George Floyd (and far too many other black Americans) and the resulting #BlackLivesMatter protests, we’ve been talking a lot about how to discuss racism and racial injustice with our (white) kids. Not only do our kids need to understand our nation’s history of racism, they also need to understand the history of racism and racial injustice in Des Moines and Iowa, to really bring those issues “home”.

While discussing diversity and acceptance with your kids is important, and there are a few resources listed that address that, that is not what this movement is about.  It is about systemic racism and the structures and laws that are in place in our communities, counties, states, and country that support it.  It is also about the unwritten laws and customs; we as white people have accepted for the last 200+ years with our reticence.

Any real change in society comes from how we educate our children.  Yes, racism is not an easy topic to discuss with your kids, nor is the topic of having to teach black children how to navigate the racism they encounter daily or how encounters with police can turn deadly in the blink of an eye.  But, unfortunately it is a discussion parents need to have.

Here are a few resources to help you discuss racism & racial injustice with Des Moines Kids: 

Des Moines & Iowa Resources

African American Museum of Iowa

Located in Cedar Rapids, The African American Museum of Iowa is a statewide museum dedicated to preserving, exhibiting, and teaching Iowa’s African American history. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the Museum is currently closed to the public, but they have some digital resources on their website, including a few virtual “Who Was” story time series recordings that are perfect for kids to learn about prominent African Americans.

Des Moines Public Library – Racial Justice and Antiracism: A Book List

Books can be a source of comfort, education, context, and inspiration during these trying, difficult times. Many people are looking for ways they can get involved, educate themselves, and begin to understand the history and context of how we got to this moment in America. The Des Moines Public Library has compiled a list of books they recommend on these topics.  They’ve included books for kids, as well as young adults.

Iowa Civil Rights Tool Kit

In 2015, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission developed this civil rights toolkit as part of its yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965. Staff at the Commission worked with the Iowa Department of Education and the State Historical Society to gather a variety of primary and secondary resources related to the history of civil rights in Iowa.

Iowa PBS – Iowa Pathways: African-Americans in Iowa, 1838-2005

Iowa PBS’s “Iowa Pathways” is an online learning environment that challenges students to create their own story of Iowa history as they explore the people, places, events and ideas of their state.  Part of that series highlights the stories and history of African Americans in Iowa.

Undesign the Redline: DSM

Presented by Polk County Housing Trust Fund, “Undesign the Redline”, is an interactive exhibit connecting the history of housing discrimination and segregation to the political and social issues of today. The thought-provoking, nationally acclaimed exhibit includes the history of Des Moines’ core neighborhoods through the pictures, maps, timelines and stories of its residents and is intended to inform and compel future policies that support equitable housing. Polk County Housing Trust Fund has been providing “virtual tours” on Facebook Live.  You can also stream the tour on their website.Resources to Help You Discuss Racism & Racial Injustice with Des Moines Kids –

General Resources

Child Development Institute – “How to Teach Your Kids About Tolerance

The site rounds up stories from psychologists and psychiatrists to help parents learn about parenting. Their webpage on tolerance provides parents with tips for how to teach your kids about it.

Kveller – “Iconic Black Jewish Writer Julius Lester Should Be on Every Parent’s Radar”

A recommendation of a dsm4kids reader, Julius Lester was an author of several children, teen and adult books and a civil rights activist. His first book was 1968’s “To Be A Slavea non-fiction book that used the actual words of slaves to tell the story of slavery. He also wrote several adaptations of African American Folklore, and tales about African American history and slavery, including the story of an African American cowboy who was born a slave, and “Sam and the Tigera non-racist retelling of “Little Black Sambo.”

Mommy Brain – “How to Talk to Your Kids About Race and Being Anti-Racist

Founded by a black mom with a diverse expert panel, this website offers moms a supportive community, as well as, accessible expert led mental and emotional care resources.  This article offers six things you can do as a family to be anti-racist.

NPR – “How White Parents Can Talk To Their Kids About Race

Michel Martin, weekend host of “All Things Considered”, spoke with Jennifer Harvey, author of “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust AmericaThis is a transcript and audio recording of their conversation.

PBS Kids for Parents – “Talking to Young Children About Race and Racism

As always, PBS Kids comes through with a number of tips and resources to help you have a meaningful conversation with young children about race, racism, and being anti-racist.

Scholastic Books

Scholastic helps parents teach and understand tolerance with younger children (preschool and kindergarten) by telling stories and helping kids role play.

Teaching Tolerance

Teaching Tolerance provides free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school. Educators use their materials to supplement the curriculum, to inform their practices, and to create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected, valued and welcome participants.



Have you found some good resources to discuss racism and racial injustice with your kids?  Let us know!

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