You may or may not have seen this:
Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Bakari Sellers asked Thursday that his Republican opponent, Henry McMaster, resign his membership at a Columbia country club that has a history of having only white members.
Sellers, who could be among the first African-Americans elected to statewide office since Reconstruction, said he made McMaster’s Forest Lake Club membership an issue because he wants to move away South Carolina from its past that includes bouts with outward racism.
“There are those who will call this a stunt. It is not,” said Sellers, a 29-year-old state representative from Denmark and son of a civil rights activist. “The truth is that this is already a campaign of contrasts, whether generational or idealistic, whether being one who believed in tomorrow or who hold steadfast to the themes of the past.”…
So is this a desperate bid for attention on the part of Rep. Sellers? Or is McMasters’ (and Kirkman Finlay’s John Courson’s) and membership in this club problematic in the 21st century?
MInd you, we’re operating without some key facts: We don’t know whether the club currently has black members. We don’t even know whether McMaster currently is a member. We know that he was in the past, and that the club was discriminatory in the past. How distant that past is, or whether, in Faulknerian terms, it is even past, remains fuzzy.
This is particularly interesting to me because — full disclosure time, for those of you who didn’t already know — I’m a member of the board of governors of the Capital City Club, which was founded specifically because other private clubs in the city did not allow, or at least did not have, black members.
After Cap City came along with its deliberate policy of seeking out members of all races and creeds, the other clubs in town were said to follow suit — although Forest Lake continued to have the reputation, fairly or not, of being slower to move on this than other clubs. (I emphasize again, I don’t know what the facts are; I just know it has had that rep. And that’s why Sellers is doing this — because of the rep.)
Finlay is quoted by The State as saying he doesn’t know whether the club has black members or not. I believe him. Although I’ll add, self-righteously, that no active member of Cap City would have to wonder about that. He or she would just have to look around, any time the club is open. The diversity is obvious.
But whether Forest Lake is exclusive or not, should that matter, in terms of Henry McMaster’s suitability for office? Is this a legitimate issue or not?