A large number of black White House staffers have reportedly departed or plan to depart from President Joe Biden’s administration since late last year, describing a White House that does not support them or offer them good promotion opportunities.
Some of the black Biden staffers have coined the term “Blaxit” to describe the exodus from the administration, a current White House official and a former White House official told POLITICO — an administration that has thus far prided itself on its discussion and focus on racial issues.
Nine current and former black White House officials, who spoke anonymously out of fear of reprisal, told the publication that the “Blaxit” has hurt morale in the administration — “compounding problems that exist elsewhere,” POLITICO reported. These officials said that both mentorship and promotions in the administration are “exceptionally rare,” according to the publication.
“We’re here and we’re doing a lot of work but we’re not decision-makers and there’s no real path towards becoming decision-makers,” one current black White House official told the publication. “There is no real feedback and there’s no clear path to any kind of promotions.”
Another former black White House official said that some “people have not had the best experiences and a lot of that has to do with the dearth of Black leadership.”
“Think about any workplace,” that official said. “Black folks need some person to go to, to strategize and be a mentor, and we just don’t have as many folks who can be mentors to us.”
“They brought in a ton of Black people generally to start without ever establishing an infrastructure to retain them or help them be successful,” a third current black White House official told POLITICO. “If there is no clear infrastructure of how to be successful, you become just as invisible in this space than you would be if you were not in it.”
The publication reported that some black White House staffers fear that the departure of black staffers exposes the White House’s larger mistakes.
“They gave us a mandate to execute on all the things that we promised and not only are we not delivering on that front, but then we’re not also delivering to the staff that came in on the basis of that promise,” a current official told POLITICO. “People go home to their families or their communities, and what can they point to specifically? They can’t even point to their own experiences as positive.”
Vice President Kamala Harris’ senior adviser Symone Sanders left the administration for MSNBC in December, the publication reported, and since then, a whole slew of Harris aides have followed her lead: Tina Flournoy, Ashley Etienne, and Vincent Evans.
Public engagement head Cedric Richmond has also left the administration, POLITICO reported, along with public engagement aide Carissa Smith, National Security Council senior director Linda Etim, gender policy aide Kalisha Dessources Figures, associate counsel Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo, and digital engagement director Cameron Trimble.
Chief of Staff Ron Klain has lost two advisors, Elizabeth Wilkins and Niyat Mulugheta, according to POLITICO, noting that press assistant Natalie Austin, presidential personnel aides Danielle Okai, Reggie Greer, and Rayshawn Dyson, and National Economic Council aides Joelle Gamble and Connor Maxwell have each departed the administration.
White House officials told the publication that deputy White House counsel Danielle Conley and Council of Economic Advisers aide Saharra Griffin are also planning to leave soon, among others.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre assured POLITICO that Biden is “incredibly proud to have built what continues to be the most diverse White House staff in history, and he is committed to continuing historic representation for Black staff and all communities.”
“This is a normal time for turnover across the board in any administration and Black staff have been promoted at a higher rate than staff who are not diverse,” Jean-Pierre added.
A White House official also told POLITICO that about 14% of the current White House staffers identify as black, noting that the number of black staffers is expected to increase and that 15% of the Biden administration’s black staffers have been promoted over the last year.
Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, told POLITICO he had “heard about an exodus of Black staffers from the White House” and that he was “concerned.”
“Black voters accounted for 22 percent of President Biden’s voters in November 2020,” Overton said. “It is essential that Black staffers are not only recruited to serve in senior, mid-level and junior White House positions, but are also included in major policy and personnel decisions and have opportunities for advancement.”
The publication notes that a number of the staffers who left the administration said they did so on good terms and that they left for other opportunities or because they needed more family time, like press assistant Natalie Austin, who told POLITICO in an email that she “worked for both the President and the Vice President during the campaign cycle, and considered the chance to serve the American people in the Biden-Harris White House nothing short of an honor.”
“I loved my experience on the press team, and left because I wanted a chance to spend more time with family after nearly three years straight of campaigns and government work,” Austin said.