OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Democrats love to paint Republicans as the party of racists and racism, but when it comes to their own they are not so quick to speak out and the media is not too quick to cover it.
On Monday, Democrat Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse was confronted by a reporter about his long-time membership in an all-white, private Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport and his defense of it was that these clubs are a “long tradition.”
It is important to note that there is no rule specifically barring people of color from membership, but the fact remains that only white people are members and the club has never had a person of color as a member.
The senator was confronted by a reporter from GoLocalProv who asked him if any headway has been made on diversifying the membership since he said he was concerned about it in 2017.
“Okay. Back in 2017, you had expressed concerns about the membership of the all-white Bailey’s Beach Club’s. You said that you want to become more diverse. Now, your families has been members, your wife is one of the largest shareholders. Has there been any traction in that? Are there any minority members of the club now?” the reporter asked.
“I think the people who are running the place are still working on that and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” Sen. Whitehouse said.
“Do you have concerns in 2021 — I mean, obviously it’s been four years. You had remarks on the floor following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, saying, you know, hoping to root out systemic racism in the country. Your thoughts on elite, all-white, wealthy club, again, in this day and age? Should this clubs continue to exist?” the reporter said.
“It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island and there are many of them, and I think we just need to work our way through the issues. Thank you,” the senator said as he was ushered away.
Hey, they have to work their way through the issues. I mean, what do you want him to do? He is only a United States senator whose wife is one of the majority shareholders of the club. What can he do?
The Whitehouse family continues to be members of Bailey’s Beach Club, also known by its legal name Spouting Rock Beach Association, and according to members GoLocal has spoken with, Sandra Whitehouse is at the facilities most summer days.
The Senator has spoken out about the injustice of systematic racism in America. On June 4, 2020, after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor Whitehouse said in a statement, “We hear the voices of the peaceful protestors who have marched. We can and must do better to root out systemic racism in its many forms.”
When confronted by the same news organization in 2017 about the all-white membership of the club the senator dodged the questions, giving noncommittal answers.
“I think it would be nice if they (Bailey’s Beach Club) changed a little bit, but it’s not my position,” Whitehouse said to News Editor Kate Nagle in 2017, as he was making a career of calling on President Donald Trump to condemn hate groups and bigotry.
When asked if he would pressure the club to diversify its membership to include minorities he said, “I will take that up privately,” before saying he had no more comments and walked away.
More than a decade ago The New York Times described it as the most exclusive beach club in America.
Mike Araujo, a progressive activist, penned a column in GoLocal in 2017 deriding the senators’ position at the club and the club itself.
“I find Senator Whitehouse’s position on his membership of the historically restricted Bailey’s Beach Club deeply disappointing yet not surprising. Racism is the air we breathe in this country, there is no place, absolutely no place that can be named that was not the site of a forcible removal or slaughter of indigenous people, or the trade, whipping, and forced labor of Black people,” he said.