Educator, parenting coach, and author of Social Justice Parenting Dr. Traci Baxley joins Zibby to talk about her work on and off the page. Traci and Zibby discuss how to talk about marginalization with children to start raising compassionate and active allies, the impact that radical love can have in a child’s life, and why maternal activism is magical to Traci. She also shares her ROCKS System, which she refers to as the basis of social justice parenting as it combines kindness with reflection and social engagement.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Traci. Thanks so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books” to discuss Social Justice Parenting: How to Raise Compassionate, Anti-Racist, Justice-Minded Kids in an Unjust World.

Traci Baxley: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Zibby: I loved this book. I was reading this and I was like, oh, my gosh, I cannot wait to talk to her. Your whole sensibility about the world and people and how we all basically need to be kind and show up for each other, this is how I live my life too. It was just so great to read this. Of course, you wrote it in a really great way. I was like, I should write something like that. It’s great. I love how much you shared about your own kids. That just made everything so much more powerful. Thank you for all of that.

Traci: Thank you. Thank you for that positive feedback.

Zibby: Tell listeners what the crux of this book is. What made you stop what you were doing and write this book?

Traci: There are moments in my own parenting, there’s moments in my own home that I realized that I can’t raise my kids alone. I really need other moms, other parents, other people to be looking out for my kids too. I’ve been kind of the village mom. I think it takes all of us. That was the premise behind it. What do we need to do as a society, as a global village to support each other in raising children who will grow up doing positive things in the world? That was the backdrop for it. All the sad and negative things that came out of COVID, this book was a positive thing for me because it allowed me to slow down, to get all of those words on paper. I had been playing around with it, writing stuff here and there over the last couple of years. Having that time where I wasn’t driving my kids to and from, I used that time to say, okay, I’m not in car pickup, that’s going to be time I’m sitting and writing. The pandemic really helped birth this book. I’m grateful for the time to slow down. I wrote it for parents in general, but specifically moms because I really think there’s something special about moms. We get things done when our minds are made up and when we form a team. I really think it’s the moms in the lives of children that will help make that change for us.

Zibby: I love how you say that all moms are, by nature, activists. Tell me about that statement because I loved that.

Traci: I think we don’t realize everything that we’re doing in our home is a part of that movement, the way we show up for our kids, the way we talk to our kids. In the moments that we’re not saying anything, it’s really teaching a lesson too. I think we look at social justice and we look at activism as something really big and something that other people do or other groups do, but we’re really doing it in our own homes. The things that we do in private in our homes, they’re going to show up in public spaces at some point or another because our kids are going to be out in the world. All the layers that we’ve embedded in our children will show up one way or another, so why not intentionally put those things in our children that will really help society in the long run?

Zibby: It’s true. When moms get together — I know you cited a lot of examples like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. When everybody bands together and decides to focus on something, there is so much power in that. The idea that all of us moms can put our heads together and raise kind kids, and kids who are aware and who stick up for each other — I love how you said that there was a platinum rule instead of the golden rule. It’s not just that you have to imagine how other people think. It’s not just, do unto others as you would have others do unto you, but what would they want? They’re not you, so you have to go that extra mile. How amazing a society if we all had kids who operated like that. Forget us. It’s too late for us. Maybe the next generation can be like that. I found that super inspiring.

Traci: I agree with you. We now have to pour into our kids, the things that we may not have done well. As children, when we reflect on our own childhoods, we can see that maybe there’s some things that our parents didn’t do because they didn’t know better. There are things that we can look back on it and think that we didn’t necessarily pick up. Now we know better. We want to instill those things for our kids to grow up and do better. In order to practice a platinum rule, you really have to get to know people. That includes the open dialogue. It includes moving away from protecting our kids so that they don’t get the experiences of others in order to really realize that our lived experiences and our needs are very different from other people’s.

Zibby: It’s so true. I like how you address how to raise kids who are sensitive about race and when you asked the reader to reflect. When was race discussed in your house? or something like that. A lot of your clients said never. When did you talk to your kids about race? People said, I haven’t chosen to do that. You said something like, well, isn’t that nice you get to choose? Isn’t that nice it’s a choice for you? That in and of itself speaks volumes. We all have to be so aware of that, which obviously we all know, but the examples that you use and by putting ourselves in your daughter’s shoes when somebody makes fun of her hair or something — my heart is breaking. I have four kids of my own. All of your examples just touched me right where the most —

Traci: — You know what? I think that is the magic of moms. We put ourselves right in that moment with our own kids. We feel it for other people’s kids. That’s why I think we are the ones that can really make the changes for our kids to make the changes in the world. Every mom that I’ve talked to that has started reading the book, they say the same thing. I was holding my breath when you were telling this story. I was in that closet with you when you were on your floor crying. I felt all of that. I want us to use all those feelings to now say, what do we need to do to change things? What do we need to do to make sure our children are the children that stand up for others, that are creating these spaces of belonging in the world? What is my job and my responsibility to make sure that happens?

Zibby: Oh, my gosh, when you couldn’t find your son and you didn’t tell the reader soon enough, I was like, is she not going to tell us what happened? Then of course, you did. You closed the chapter perfectly. I was freaking out. What happened? Is he okay? Also, even the example of your bootcamp class when you were working out with a bunch of women. Then at your final fiesta, you meet the trainer’s children. I think it was the trainer’s children, right, who said a very racially disparaging thing right in front of you?

Traci: It was, yes.

Zibby: Everybody responded with silence. You point out there’s a difference between them not saying something racist, but by not sticking up for you or by not speaking out about it, you’re not being anti-racist. That’s still a form of it. You have to be the who says, wait, what? What did you just say? That’s not okay. Just in that one example, that’s the whole book on anti-racism right there.

Traci: Yeah, because in that moment, I felt alone. I felt silenced. I felt isolated. If one person would’ve even just reached out and touched my hand in that moment, I would’ve felt like I had an ally. Nobody did anything. Honestly, I had grown to really care about all of these people. Honestly, I think they’re all good people, but in the moment when you’re in the trenches, you need somebody more than a good person. Good people, sometimes it’s a passive term. You don’t do the harm. You don’t hurt people. You don’t bully. We need people who are allies or pro-justice people around you. These are people who really support you, where there’s some action behind what they’re feeling and how they support you.

Zibby: It’s hard in these social settings. I think some people just don’t know what to do. Not that that excuses it. I think often when we’re disappointed by other people’s behavior, we assume that they know the right thing but don’t do it. Sometimes I just don’t know that people — maybe this is not coming across the way I mean it. I feel often, not just in situations involving race, of course — this is when you talk about somebody who’s passed away or even my daughter saying, “What if I cry at school and someone makes fun of me?” That’s because they’re an eight-year-old kid. They might not know how to handle that situation. They might not have the skills they need. That doesn’t mean you should be embarrassed. That’s because the other person lacks the skills to cope with your grief or your this. I think a lot of times, it’s up to the other people. I don’t know. It’s easy to feel alone.

Traci: That’s a good point. That’s why it’s so important that we have these dialogues at home. There are moments that you’re just like, what is the right thing to say? How do I show up for them? In that thought, you do nothing. I say the only wrong way to do anti-racism or allyship with anything — like you said, it’s not just about race; it’s about any social issue or identity that we hold — is to do nothing. If somebody would’ve just touched my hand, I would’ve not felt alone. If someone would’ve just stood next to me, it would’ve made me feel like there was some solidarity there. Sometimes it’s the small gestures that you make. Then the other thing is, I would try to teach my kids to not worry about getting it right, but more about taking action because we’re going to get it wrong sometimes, especially when we’re being allies for a group of people or a community that we are not marginalized in. We have to work through that. We have to work through how to get it right or how to get it better every time that we’re showing up. That takes practice.

Zibby: I love that you have the whole chart. Are you marginalized? Multiple-choice quiz, essentially, of race, gender. There are all these ways. It’s such a narrow category of the completely unmarginalized with the way you frame it.

Traci: Everybody always thinks about, basically, based on race, but we all carry these multiple identities. Within those, we have some areas that we are not the dominant power as ascribed in the United States because it’s all socially constructed. In another country or another space or another time, these may not be the marginalized or dominant ways of seeing people. Currently right now, we all carry these identities that some of us are marginalized in some. Then we have other identities where we really hold more power. If we can break those down to look at them as just part of who we are, nothing to feel guilty about, nothing to be sad about, nothing to be angry about — privilege is something that you have whether you did something great or did something poorly. It’s just the way the system is right now. If we can take those identities and really look at them — I said do it with your kids too. Let’s look at this. We need to know where we can be of service to others based on the identities that we hold that have more power.

Zibby: It’s so true. Wait, tell me more about the ROCKS System.

Traci: That’s the foundation of social justice parenting. These are ways that you move through your parenting having these things top of mind. The R is for reflection, which often is the one that parents want to skip because it requires you to dig a little bit. It requires you to tell yourself the truths about your childhood, about your experiences, about your thoughts, stereotypes, biases, fears, all those things. You have to do some reflecting in order to be able to really show up for your kids in an honest, authentic way. Then the O is for open dialogue. That’s kind of what we’ve been talking about, having these conversations with our children, being honest when you don’t know the answers, saying, I don’t know the answers. When they come to you with their natural curiosities, how are you facilitating that, or are you shutting it down because it’s something that you don’t want to talk about? So having these open dialogues constantly in your home.

The C is for compassion. I look at it on three levels. I look at it in terms of self-compassion, which is sometimes very hard for moms, but we need to show our kids that we can do that to teach them to do the same. Looking at it from self-compassion to showing and modeling compassion for your children in the home, what happens when they make mistakes? How do we respond to those kinds of things? Then when we teach them that compassion in the home, how do we take it out into the community and into the world? Then the next one is kindness. Same things. I look at kindness as compassion in action. We feel these things, and now what do we do about them? Then the last one is social engagement. How are we being activists around the topics that are important to us? Although I have the chapter on anti-racism, this is about any social issue that’s out there that is important to your family or that can spark you into taking some actions.

Zibby: I love it. I love all the times where you ask us to do assignments as we’re reading. You’re like, for the self-reflection, write five sentences about yourself. How hard was that? I was like, that’s not hard for me at all, but I can see that being a challenge for other people. It’s nice to have a framework. I feel like no matter how much time we’ve all individually thought about parenting and even your pointing out that “to mom” has become a verb instead of just a noun, it’s always nice to have a framework to know that it’s all fitting into something, that it’s going towards some sort of larger goal as opposed to just getting through every day. Even the ability to put ourselves in our kids’ shoes — somebody was asking me lately, something about parenting. I was like, having all these kids, now I realize how different they are, and so I often just take the time to be like, what is it like for — no, this is kid is definitely not going to do this activity. It would terrible if somebody told me to turn the TV off right now too. I hate it when people do that. Just having that extra step, I feel like, goes such a long way with kids. I feel like that’s exactly what you were talking about in all your different examples with your own kids and your one son who doesn’t like sports and all of that.

Traci: Listen, between the two of us, we have nine children.

Zibby: I know. I was thinking that.

Traci: They’re all so different. You can’t parent one the way you parent the other one because they are uniquely made with their own unique personalities and challenges and strengths. As a parent, we have to recognize that what works for one is not going to work for the other. The more we try to shove them in this sameness box, we don’t give them the opportunity to blossom as their best selves.

Zibby: I think that’s one of the most fun parts of parenting, is watching new things and new interests bubble up, particularly ones that I don’t have myself. Now of course, I can’t think of a good example. My daughter sewed the other day. She does fashion design on the side. It’s not even a thing for her. She’s like, “Oh, I think I’m going to make this blanket into a skirt.” She sewed the whole thing. I was like, what? Where did that come from?

Traci: Where’d that come from?

Zibby: I didn’t try to encourage that talent in any way. She didn’t take a sewing class. It just came out of nowhere. That’s what’s so neat about our kids. They’re these boxes that you have to unwrap a layer, and they surprise you.

Traci: They just need space to do it.

Zibby: Exactly, they just need space to do it. Oh, my gosh, the kid, too, in your class — I’m blanking on his name — who you made —

Traci: — Rubin.

Zibby: Rubin, oh, my gosh, that story was also amazing. Do you keep in touch with him? Do you know what ever happened to him or anything?

Traci: I do not. I regret that so much. I followed him the first, probably, three or four years after he left me, but I was in Georgia. Once I moved back to Florida, I didn’t, but I think about him often wondering where he is, what’s going on with him. I’m moved every time I think about him.

Zibby: You changed his whole life. You understood and saw him and encouraged him. Your example of how he navigated the bus and the store and how he shopped for his family and all of the skills he was showing and how the other kids sat on the carpet that day with their mouths wide open like, oh, my gosh, Rubin’s out there doing all this stuff, and here we are drawing a picture of a tree or something, it was really amazing. It just shows the power of all of us showing up for little kids, our kids, our friends’ kids, everything.

Traci: That is the power of radical love. That’s all I had. I didn’t know what else to do. Back then, we weren’t trained to deal with all of the nuances of children in that way. All I knew how to do was love. I just loved him. He eventually understood that it was just love and I was going to keep showing up. His behavior had nothing to do with who he was. That was probably my most moving moment as an educator. We really were able to get through all of the things that he had no control over, and just through love.

Zibby: Wow. I’m so impressed that you wrote the book in the midst of the pandemic. I totally understand the found time with not having to move the kids around to different places. That was amazing. Now that it’s back, I’m like, oh, my gosh, I can’t get anything done.

Traci: I promised myself I’m not going to fill up my schedule the way it was. I’m going to make the changes. When you have a lot of kids, all they have to do is have one activity, and then you’re all over the place.

Zibby: That’s it. I know, exactly. I’m like, you’re just going to do gymnastics. Now it’s twice a week and meets. I’m like, oh, my gosh. I thought it would make it easier. Anyway, so where do you go from here? How do you turn this into a nationwide movement that everybody gets behind and all that good stuff? What next?

Traci: Right now, I am on the book tour where it’s mostly virtual at this point now because of the pandemic. I’m speaking at different places, so I’m hoping to keep doing that. The great thing about it being virtual, I’m speaking in places that I probably would not have been able to go to otherwise. That’s been great. I have a Social Justice Parenting program, a six-month program that I’m doing. I think what I’m going to do is turn that course into something that — right now, the way it is, people have to show up every month. I give them materials to work with. I give them worksheets. Then they have to show up at the end of the month. That’s been hard for parents sometimes with timing. I think I’m going to package that in a way that it’s kind of on your own. Then maybe once a month, I just do an open Q&A that anybody who wants to show up can show up. That is an extension of the book. I don’t know. I’m hoping people will pick up the book, and we can see what happens after that. I’m open. This is my passion. I’m going to still be on my Instagram account where I do a lot of my thoughts and teaching and learning. That will continue once I get past the book launch time. I’m passionate about this. I plan to keep working.

Zibby: Let me know how I can help and amplify your efforts because I just totally related to so much of what you were saying and want to help. This is the way to make societal change. This is the best way to do it. It’s reaching the people who create the kids. To the extent that I can help, let me know.

Traci: Okay. I appreciate that very much.

Zibby: Traci, Dr. Baxley, thank you so much. Oh, do you have any advice for aspiring authors? I always ask that. I almost forgot.

Traci: Write, write, write even if you don’t know — I have a friend who’s trying to write a book. I keep telling her, don’t worry about the how, where it’s going to go, and the title. Just write. Get your thoughts on paper. Don’t let anybody box you in while you’re doing the writing process. Don’t worry about editing. Just getting all your thoughts down on paper really is the key to keeping it going. That’s how I got started, really. I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know where it was going to go. Every time I had thoughts, I wrote them down. The how will happen, but you have to focus on getting you on the paper, not getting bogged up into the logistics of it. Worry about just getting the love that’s inside out on paper.

Zibby: It would be so neat if all of our nine kids somehow got to meet each other at one point. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Traci: Yes. What’s the age range of your children?

Zibby: Mine are younger than yours. I have twins who are fourteen and then eight and six. Yours are what?

Traci: Mine are twenty-one to twelve. My last two are in your age group.

Zibby: This is a fun time, twin teenagers.

Traci: I know. Listen, wait until they hit —

Zibby: I know. I know.

Traci: Those late teens and early twenties are really special.

Zibby: At least, that’s the good thing about having all the ages. When you’re completely overwhelmed in one age, you can fall back on another just for a minute.

Traci: Yes. As a matter of fact, I told my thirteen-year-old son — he’s always been the one that needed to say, okay, look at the calendar. Who’s picking up who? He was always the hardworking kid. If we’re raking leaves, he’s the one that’s the last one to come in. He’s getting to that thirteen-year-old, laid back, maybe I don’t want to do this. I’m like, not you, I need you to stay the same.

Zibby: I started having one issue with the one kid who never gives me any issues. I’m like, no, no, no, not you. Exactly, I had the same thing. Not you.

Traci: A safe space.

Zibby: You’re my sure thing. Anyway, lovely chatting with you. Thanks so much.

Traci: Thank you. Have a great day.

Zibby: Take care. Buh-bye.

Traci: Thanks. Bye.



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