Local Black Lives Matter chapters have criticized Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse for defending his membership to an exclusive, allegedly “all-white” private beach club in Newport.
The leaders of two separate BLM groups in the Ocean State had strong words for the senator on his longtime involvement in the Bailey’s Beach Club, GoLocal Providence reported Tuesday.
“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 at its worst,” Gary Dantzler, executive director of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island, told the outlet of the senator’s comments Monday.
“We need to put an end to this good ole boy mentality and hold our elected officials accountable,” Dantzler reportedly continued. “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.”
“No more hiding behind empty words,” he concluded.
Harrison Tuttle, the executive director of the BLM RI PAC, also reportedly criticized Whitehouse and called on him to take the lead on change at Bailey’s.
“Sen. Whitehouse declining to push to diversify the all-white Bailey’s Beach Club shows where his priorities lay,” Tuttle said, according to GoLocal Providence. “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,” Tuttle added. (RELATED: Sheldon Whitehouse Invited Three Witnesses To Testify Against Dark Money — They All Work For Dark Money Groups)
Whitehouse came under fire over the weekend after a GoLocal Providence reporter questioned his membership to the club, of which the senator’s wife is also one of its largest shareholders. Whitehouse defended the club as being a “long tradition” in Rhode Island.
“I think the people who are running the place are still working on that and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet,” Whitehouse said of its lack of diversity.
GoLocal Providence had previously raised the issue with Whitehouse in 2017 and also describes the club as “the most exclusive club in America,” with membership limited to a “who’s who Newport, Palm Beach, and New York wealth.”
Whitehouse also reportedly said he would end his involvement with Bailey’s when first running for the Senate in 2006.