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Minority Leaders Speak Out on Whitehouse’s Membership to All-White Bailey’s Beach

Thursday, September 07, 2017


U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s membership in the exclusive and all-white Bailey’s Beach club is drawing strong criticism from Rhode Island minority leaders. 

“To see Whitehouse, and to see him calling out Donald Trump -- trust me, I saw the floor speeches -- to say all that, why do you have to be in all-white club? To see him duck the questions, he knows. He knows what he's done,” said Noel Frias, President of the Youth Council of the Providence Chapter of the NAACP.

After weeks of refusing to answer GoLocal’s questions about his membership in Bailey’s, GoLocal News Editor caught up with Whitehouse attending an event in Newport. 

“I think it would be nice if they (Bailey’s Beach Club) changed a little bit, but it's not my position,” Whitehouse told Nagle.

When asked if he would pressure the club to push for diversity at the all-white club], Whitehouse said, “I will take that up privately.” He then told Nagle he had no further comment and walked away.

Pilar McCloud, NAACP

Questioning Club, Membership

“At this point, the way the county is -- the climate is -- if we're not being inclusive and taking in everybody, and we're excluding people based on race, creed, color and orientation -- you have to pick a side and stand on it. You can't say you represent me and stand for me and my people otherwise," said community leader Pilar McCloud, who has Chaired the NAACP Youth Council. 

Bailey’s Beach Club is not an average private club -- it has been described as the most exclusive club in America. 

Frias questions Whitehouse's sincerity

“Look, I'm not disrespecting ]Whitehouse] and who he is, but if you're going to be part of this group, this club, then you've got to own it," said Frias. "If you're not just using my people as a stepping stone for your career, you better be clear. They find vulnerable populations and use them as a stepping stone."

In a guest MINDSETTER™ column in GoLocalProv this past Sunday, Mike Araujo,  Executive Director of RI Jobs With Justice, wrote, “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…”

"It's very concerning to find out that a Senator [Whitehouse] that has recently been so vocal about the blatant racism being displayed in places like Charlottesville would be a member of this type of club. The community looks to their political leadership to embody the values that they publicly espouse," said Ray Two Hawks Watson. "Particularly with his response of not distancing himself from the club, I believe it casts a lot of doubt on his overall integrity when it comes to issues of diversity and racial justice, and will impact his credibility on these types issues in the future."

Ray Two Hawks Watson

One Defender 

Jim Vincent, who heads the Providence Chapter of the NAACP, deferred comment to the Boston office. 

“The issue of Sen. Whitehouse belonging to a private club with no Black members is of no more concern than the thousands, upon thousands of churches and other organizations in the US with no Black members, as long as there is no prohibition to Black membership.  The NAACP is concerned about the policies he advocates for in the US Senate and his leadership on social justice issues,” said Juan Cofield of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP.

McCloud said that she wanted to hear from Whitehouse. 

"I'd be interested in having a conversation with him [Whitehouse} -- help me understand this. [Exclusionary organizations], none of this works out well for my people and it didn't work out well with women. Not one of us faired well,” said McCloud.

"The history of exclusion in this country is widely known and in many ways the defining feature of our nation. Segregation is insidious in that it takes multiple forms, first in the official way where laws and commerce have rules of exclusion," wrote Araujo in his piece on Whitehouse.


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