At least 21 Black staffers have left the White House since late last year or are planning to leave soon. Some of those who remain say it’s no wonder why: They describe a work environment with little support from their superiors and fewer chances for promotion.
The departures have been so pronounced that, according to one current and one former White House official, some Black aides have adopted a term for them: “Blaxit.”
The first big exit came in December, when Kamala Harris’ senior adviser and chief spokesperson Symone Sanders announced she was leaving, ultimately for a gig at MSNBC. Since then, Harris senior aides Tina Flournoy, Ashley Etienne and Vincent Evans, and public engagement head Cedric Richmond have left.
Public engagement aide Carissa Smith, gender policy aide Kalisha Dessources Figures, National Security Council senior director Linda Etim, digital engagement director Cameron Trimble, associate counsel Funmi Olorunnipa Badejo, chief of staff Ron Klain advisers Elizabeth Wilkins and Niyat Mulugheta, press assistant Natalie Austin, National Economic Council aides Joelle Gamble and Connor Maxwell, and presidential personnel aides Danielle Okai, Reggie Greer and Rayshawn Dyson have all departed too. Deputy White House counsel Danielle Conley and Council of Economic Advisers aide Saharra Griffin are among others planning to leave in the coming weeks, according to White House officials.
The exodus has raised concerns among outside observers who push for the diversification of government ranks.
“I have heard about an exodus of Black staffers from the White House — ‘Blaxit’ — and I am concerned,” said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which tracks government staff diversity numbers. “Black voters accounted for 22 percent of President Biden’s voters in November 2020. 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.”
A White House official pushed back on those concerns, saying that around 14 percent of current White House staffers identify as Black — in line with national proportions. The official added that the number is expected to increase as more Black staffers are brought on board and that 15 percent of Black staffers have been promoted in the last year.
“The president 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,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “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.”