As the nation prepared to celebrate Juneteenth and the end of slavery in America, at least one Democrat was pushing back against his party's woke obsession with racial equity.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.) is defending his membership in an exclusive all-white beach club in the elite coastal enclave of Newport. Last week, a reporter for GoLocalProv.com followed up with Whitehouse, who told the local news outlet in 2017 he intended to "privately" urge the elite Bailey's Beach Club to do something about its all-white membership.
"Are there any minority members of the club now?" the reporter asked.
A defiant Whitehouse revealed that his alleged efforts to promote racial equity were not successful. "I think the people who are running the place are still working on that, and I'm sorry it hasn't happened yet," he said.
Asked about his membership in the all-white club, and whether such racially exclusive institutions should even exist in 2021, Whitehouse explained that white supremacy was "a long tradition in Rhode Island" before being escorted away by a staffer.
Sheldon, who promised to cancel his Bailey's membership back in 2006, continues to enjoy the privileges of the all-white club after transferring his ownership shares to his wife, Sandra Thornton, in 2010. As a result, "Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse" became one of the largest shareholders, alongside prominent members of the Vanderbilt and Astor families.
When GoLocalProv.com confronted Whitehouse in 2017 about his refusal to cut ties with the racially exclusive beach club, he conceded, "It would be nice if [Bailey's] changed a little bit," but insisted that he was not in a "position" to make those decisions. "I will take that up privately," he said before fleeing the scene.
Whitehouse has remained steadfast in his support for the all-white institution, even as he's denounced by racial activists in his state. Mike Araujo, executive director of Rhode Island Jobs With Justice, said the senator's membership in Bailey's was "deeply disappointing yet not surprising" because "racism is the air we breathe in this country." His refusal to distance himself from the club, Araujo wrote, "casts a lot of doubt on his overall integrity when it comes to issues of diversity and racial justice."
The New York Times article on the Newport beach club, published in 2003, suggests that little has changed in nearly two decades:
Diversity, of course, has made scant inroads on the Newport of Bailey's Beach, whose membership profile might be defined less by who people are than what they are not. "Jewish, yes," Audrey Oswald, a lifelong member replied, when asked about the club's demographic composition. "Blacks, not really," Ms. Oswald added, although that is not altogether the case. Mrs. Slocum, by all accounts the reigning dowager of the resort, has grown grandchildren who sometimes visit the beach and who are biracial, the offspring of her daughter Beryl's marriage to Adam Clayton Powell III.
Whitehouse deserves credit for being one of the only prominent Democrats willing to stand athwart wokeness yelling "stop!" Opponents of white supremacy will have to pry his Bailey's membership from his cold dead hands.