Exclusion, Whitehouse, and Bailey’s Beach - Guest MINDSETTER™ Mike Araujo

Sunday, September 03, 2017


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Sheldon Whitehouse

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. Though we have reformed or eliminated most Jim Crow laws official racism is sticky. Best illustrated by Santander bank which settled a lawsuit in 2014 for denying Black Rhode Islanders home loans, or steering them away from majority white communities, in a process called red-lining. To laws which target specific communities usually Black communities with over policing and disparate sentencing for similar crimes, like longer sentences for crack and shorter sentences for the same amount or more for powder cocaine. This is de-jura segregation and is in many ways much easier to address, activism, advocacy, and confrontation is the recipe for change.


The harder to change are the customs that can serve as ready a barrier as a cop and his club. This exclusion comes in the form of traditions and practices that keep people out of some places. Though on the surface they may be open to all the experience of the excluded can be all but welcoming. For example, being ignored by service workers, followed in stores, charged different rates, or not being offered what the majority population gets offered. Clubhouses and bars that do not hire Black people for service positions or send shade when people of color enter thus rendering theses place truly unwelcome to people of color. This is de-facto segregation, or segregation outside the law, not necessarily illegal but exclusionary and racist all the same.


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Ed Brooke, on of the new Blacks ever elected to the United States Senate

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. The air we breathe we can’t see and its presence is not noticed by those who benefit from it. The labor, removal, loans, and laws, that hinder one and lift up the other makes the air refreshing for those who benefit. For those of us Black, Indigenous, immigrant, and in the case of private clubs Jewish, the air is choking.  I hope that Senator Whitehouse can see that his membership in this club is carrying on a tradition of exclusion that is rooted in violence and suffering. Whatever rationale he may offer for membership is simply not good enough, he simply should walk away and encourage those other members of Bailey’s Beach Club who have the heart to join him.


However, outside of Bailey’s swank and barred beaches there is another club that he is a member of that carries much of the same restrictions that his beach club offers. A tradition of upholding and pushing racist policies and practices. Of course, I am talking about the U.S. Senate. Only 10 Black Senators and only 5 of Indigenous descent in 241years. What decisions would Senator Pinchback have made had he been allowed to take his rightful seat? We will never know because his fellow US Senators denied him his rightful place. The first Black elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly wasn’t until 1977 and he was denied his seat by his colleagues. This is the tradition of exclusion in our “elected clubs” that warrant the closest scrutiny, along with Bailey’s Beach Club.

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Michael Araujo is Executive Director of RI Jobs With Justice


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