Experts Advise Parents to Talk About Race Often, Following Central Iowa Racial Incidents

DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Within the last four weeks, there have a been a number of racially discriminating incidents involving students in central Iowa. Now, some Iowans say the country's racial divide is showing its face here.

On Monday, Channel 13 confirmed four Waukee students were disciplined after writing a word that violated the district’s anti-discrimination policy on another student’s car in dust. Over the weekend, a racial slurs and emblem were carved into property at Drake University.

Udell Cason Jr., a Drake University alum, lived through the civil rights era and says what’s happening with Iowa’s youth should not be ignored.

“You’re only a youth for a short while. So as parents, as educators, we must work with them to become an adult. Because once they are an adult, they are an adult for the rest of their lives."

In August, students at Iowa State University posted a photo to social media with a racial slur. Earlier this month, a picture surfaced of high school students in Creston wearing white hoods with a confederate flag. Cason Jr. says there is fine line between freedom of speech and human decency.

“Typically, yes, you'd say that's free speech, but you have to be careful what you say, what you do, and how you do it in order to keep some decency in our society.”

He says he’s not blaming the issue entirely on the political climate of our nation, but instead says the focus needs to be on who can help mold this generation's mindset.

Licensed mental health psychologist Kenneth Cameron calls the increase in “racial incidents” disturbing.

“These are behaviors that are learned,” he says. "That's why it's so disturbing."

Cameron says children begin learning how they feel about things including race between the ages of two and five years old. He advises parents to talk about race as open and as often as possible.

“Make it normal. That's what we’ve done," says Cameron. "Race shouldn't be a touchy subject."

Experts say the easiest way to talk to kids about race is by asking them if they know about what's happening in the news and how they feel about it.