In this post, I will explain why I disagree with the prolific, brilliant Paul Thomas.

Thomas is offended that the mainstream media jumped all over Secretary Duncan’s insulting comment about “white suburban moms,” but has consistently ignored Secretary Duncan’s policies that disproportionately harm black and Hispanic children, their families and their communities.

Thomas elsewhere wrote: If white outrage is the only outrage that counts in the U.S., any victory won from that outrage is no victory at all.

Thomas writes:

First, Duncan’s incompetence is no different than the incompetence exhibited by previous Secretaries, such as Margaret Spellings. Where has the outrage been about the national leaders of education having essentially no grasp of data or statistics? Or the likelihood that they feel compelled to protect their partisan politics regardless of the truth?

Next, Duncan’s most recent embarrassment must be placed in the larger context of the entire education agenda under Obama—an agenda characterized by Civil Rights discourse used with Orwellian aims of masking classist and racist policies impacting negatively and disproportionately black, brown, and poor children (“other people’s children”) as well as English language learners. Where has the outrage been about maintaining and expanding two separate education systems—one for the privileged children of our leaders and another for the impoverished and marginalized?

Here, and in other posts, Thomas has expressed his frustration and dismay that the only way to awaken outrage is to belittle “white suburban moms.”

While I usually agree with Thomas and find his articles consistently insightful, I disagree with him in this instance. It has become obvious over the past decade that the mainstream media not only doesn’t care when black and brown children are harmed by misguided education policy, they typically accept the claims of those inflicting the harm. They report without any criticism the policies that bounce black and brown children around the school district as if they were checkers on a checkerboard. They ignore the protests of the parents of these children when their local school is closed to make way for a privately managed charter or for a condo. It is obvious to everyone but the media that they don’t hear the voices of these children or their parents.

So, yes, it took a condescending comment directed toward white suburban mothers by Secretary Duncan to get the attention of the media. You can bemoan that fact, as Paul Thomas does, or celebrate it as the beginning of coalition politics.

It is beyond argument that those in power will not listen to the poor. But when the black and brown moms (and dads) form a coalition with the “white suburban moms,” they are a powerful force that cannot be ignored.

I learned this lesson nearly half a century ago from the great civil rights leader Bayard Rustin. Rustin wrote and spoke often about the power of coalition politics. He patiently explained that the great weight of institutionalized oppression and powerlessness would not be lifted from black Americans unless they joined in coalition with the labor movement; he saw the civil rights movement and the labor movement as natural allies. And he was right. Together, they pushed American politics to adopt laws that benefited all Americans and established a legal framework of equity.

My advice to Paul Thomas, whose sense of outrage I share, is to embrace coalition politics. When the white moms and dads realize they are in the same situation as the black and Hispanic moms and dads, they become a force to be reckoned with. The coalition of diverse groups is a source of political power that will benefit children and families of all colors and conditions.