Earlier this week, Politico released a scathing report, stating “[a]t least 21 Black staffers have left the White House since late last year or are planning to leave soon…some Black aides have adopted a term for them: ‘Blaxit.’” The Biden White House has responded, “saying the turnover is like that of any working environment.”
Although the Politico article cited interviews with nine current and former Black White House officials, including “[t]hree Black staffers who currently work in the White House – and were granted anonymity because of fear of reprisal,” the White House countered that this was extremely biased reporting.
White House Director of African-American Media Erica Loewe faulted Politico for their misleading and deliberate omission of comments from both former and current Black staffers, which would have diluted their attention-grabbing headlines. Loewe told PEOPLE, “Even though far more current and former staff told Politico about their positive experiences, Politico refused to communicate those findings to readers and instead devoted most of this article to comments that reinforce their narrative and present a disingenuous picture.”
She continued, “Instead of including their on-the-record sentiments, Politico singled out Black staff who left at a normal time for general turnover and then intentionally kept their own perspectives about their stories in the dark.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre—who broke barriers when she became the first Black and LGBTQ person to serve in this role—said, “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.”
“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 said.
Looking at historical data, how does the Biden administration compare? According to a Brookings report, which tracked turnover in previous Presidential administrations, year 2 turnovers for the past six Presidents were as follows: Reagan at 60, H.W. Bush at 57, Clinton at 70, W. Bush at 63, Obama at 53, and Trump at 65 with respect to the “most influential positions within the executive office of the president.”
Indeed, one former Black staffer from the Clinton administration spoke on the matter, questioning “whether the recent departures from this White House center around ‘ideas of tension’ or ‘the natural rhythms’ seen in previous administrations where the staff was essentially given an ultimatum to either leave their post around the 18-month mark or ‘stay for the long haul,’” and
As we enter June 2022, the Biden-White House administration has officially entered the 18-month mark.
Given the incredible amount of diversity in the current administration, “any movement in its rank is ‘noticeable.’” As a former Black staffer from the Obama administration said, “because you have more Black people you will have more Black staff leaving… ‘no one is questioning’ why former Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who is white, recently left the Biden administration to focus on her family and take on a more lucrative TV gig at MSNBC.”
Another factor in play could be related to a more significant national trend. Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “[i]n 2021…over 47 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs – an unprecedented mass exit from the workforce, spurred on by COVID-19, that is now widely being called the Great Resignation.” At the end of last year, Business Insider reported that “White House staffers could be getting swept up in the Great Resignation, too… People were feeling burned out, with little opportunity for the camaraderie of in-person work.” This movement has extended to state legislative chambers as well—“[d]ozens of legislators in states…are heading for the exits this year, declining to seek new terms.”