Rhode Island BLM Groups Call Out Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Over All-White Club Membership

US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island attends a press conference at the US climate action center on November 11, 2017 during the COP23 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany. / AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ (Photo credit should read PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)
PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images

Democrat Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)  is facing backlash from two Rhode Island Black Lives Matter groups after he defended his membership at an exclusive all-white beach club.

“I am ashamed of Senator Whitehouse and his affiliation with this racist club. Him coming out and speaking about ending systemic racism while belonging to a ‘whites only’ private club is hypocrisy as it worst,” Executive Director of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Brother Gary Dantzler told GoLocal Providence. He continued:

We need to put an end to this good ole boy mentality and hold our elected officials accountable. Black Lives Matter Rhode Island expects the Senator to call this what it is; Jim Crow era racism that’s been lingering around the Black community like a plague. It’s time for real change and equity.

Whitehouse, who decried systemic racism following the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, has frequented Bailey Beach Club for decades, GoLocal Providence reported on Monday.

“It’s time to create opportunities in the Black community by supporting the work that’s happening in RI. No more hiding behind empty words,” Dantzler concluded.

Whitehouse defended his Bailey Beach Club membership, officially known as the Spouting Rock Beach Association, to a reporter on the eve of Juneteenth National Independence Day.

“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,” Whitehouse said when the reporter asked him if a wealthy, all-white club like Bailey’s should still exist in 2021.

Harrison Tuttle, the Executive Director of the BLM RI PAC, told GoLocal Providence that Whitehouse’s actions show what his true priorities are:

After a year of protests calling for change, Sen. Whitehouse is in a position to make it happen and has passed the buck. It’s past time that Sen. Whitehouse used his platform and make his actions match his rhetoric. Sen. Whitehouse should publicly and vigorously support increased diversity and accessibility and clubs like his, which have long held shut their doors to people of color.

Whitehouse reportedly promised to give up his membership in 2006, though “give up” is a technical term. Instead, he “resigned” in 2010 by transferring his membership to his wife, who is now one of this all-white club’s biggest shareholders, Breitbart News reported.

Breitbart News reached out to both the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Congressional Black Caucus on Monday for their reactions to Whitehouse’s membership. Neither responded to the request for comment.

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