White House ‘Exodus’ of African American Staffers Raises Questions About Diversity

White House
Courtesy of Greg Miller (CC0 Flickr)

Since late 2021, at least 21 African American staffers have left their jobs at the White House or are planning on doing so soon. The New York Post published an article calling the common occurrence of staffers leaving the White House at the end of their administration’s first year a “Blaxit” — an idiom used to describe Black staffers leaving an area in high numbers. Although some Black staffers have complaints about working for the Biden administration, it must also be taken into account that the White House has never employed such a large number of African Americans.

President Joe Biden’s administration has appointed the most diverse cabinet in the history of the United States, comprising almost 50% women. Over half of his cabinet positions have been given to minorities, according to NPR. With an unprecedented number of African American staffers, it should come as no surprise that a record-high number of African Americans are leaving the White House at a time White House Press Secretary Karine Jeane-Pierre describes as “a normal time for turnover across the board in any administration.”

White House
Courtesy of Shutter Ferret (CC0 Flickr)

That being said, some current and former Black White House staffers have voiced discontent with their roles within the Biden administration. Anonymously, a small group of current African American staffers told Politico they felt they lacked mentor-ship, actual power to make decisions in their roles, felt they had become invisible, and felt that morale amongst Black staffers was low with the departures of some African American cabinet members in high positions. Staffers also felt that their positions lacked upward mobility with little to no room for promotion. Two of the anonymous staffers told Politico some inner circles of African American White House staff have begun to call the series of exits a “Blaxit,” which is where The New York Post adopted the term.

The majority of African American staffers who have left the White House or will be leaving the White House soon, have not cited dissatisfaction with their jobs as the reason for leaving. Young staffers have left to take higher-paying positions because the White House tends not to pay high wages, according to Cedric Richmond.

He left his position as White House public engagement head for a position as a senior adviser for the Democratic National Committee. Lower-level positions in the White House are known to pay low wages and the cost of living in Washington D.C. has increased immensely over the past decade. Senior cabinet members who have left recently, such as press assistant Natalie Austin, cited needing more time to spend with family as their main reason for leaving. Some cabinet officials moved to other departments as well.

Despite the so-called “Blaxit,” the Biden administration plans on hiring even more Black staff, which will increase the current 14% makeup of African American cabinets which is proportional to the African American population of the United States. The Biden administration has seen many historical appointments including Kamala Harris the first Black woman to serve as Vice President, Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman Supreme Court Justice, and Karine Jean-Pierre the first Black woman and openly gay person to serve as White House Press Secretary.

With unprecedented growth comes growing pains. The record number of African American staff in this President’s cabinet is long overdue and turnover rates can be attributed to many factors.

Opinion by Justin Connor
Edited by Sheena Robertson

Sources:

Politico: Biden sees exodus of Black staffers and some frustration among those who remain

The New York Post: African American White House staffers leaving in mass ‘Blaxit’: report

NPR: Biden Pledged Historic Cabinet Diversity. Here’s How His Nominees Stack Up

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Greg Miller’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Shutter Ferret’s Flickr Page-Creative Commons License

 

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