Updated as of 6/3/2022 at 10 a.m. ET
In the last year, the White House lost 21 Black staffers and more are planning to leave, per a POLITICO report. POLITICO’s report featured a (what seemed extensive) list of Black staffers who left and quotes from the remaining staff who were unhappy with their work environment. Though, there were more staffers who believe the whole story isn’t being told.
Per POLITICO’s report, staffers began leaving after Vice President Kamala Harris’ senior adviser Symone Sanders left for MSNBC. From the interviews, Black staffers expressed the “exodus” discouraged them. Specifically, they said the deputy chief of staff, Jen O’Malley Dillon, had not done enough to retain and promote Black staff. Yet, other Black staff members reached out to The Root to share their points of view which were left unheard.
“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 of the most diverse White House in history,” said Erica Loewe, White House Director of African American Media, via email.
The reasons for the departures may vary. But the totality of them has not gone unnoticed within the ranks, according to interviews with nine current and former Black White House officials. Three Black staffers who currently work in the White House — and were granted anonymity because of fear of reprisal — said the exodus has hurt morale, compounding problems that exist elsewhere. They described an operation in which mentorship is hard to come by and opportunity to move up the ranks of a tight-knit operation is exceptionally rare.
“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,” said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this is a normal time for turnover and noted Black staff have been promoted at a higher rate than non-diverse staff. POLITICO did note the White House staff is 14 percent Black and expected to increase. Per a White House fact sheet, 15 percent of Black staff have been promoted into senior roles and 36 percent of those who left had gone to agencies within the Federal Government.
Some staff, current and departing, lost the chance to speak on their experiences. Connor Maxwell, who left the White House after nearly two years, called his job the “experience of a lifetime” and he was only leaving the position to spend more time with his family. Gabe Amo said the deputy chief of staff always advocated for Black staffers. “I know that having Black staff at the table will continue to be a priority for [Dillon] and the White House leadership as we execute the President’s agenda,” said Amo.
People are going to have their judgments about the Biden administration regardless of what is written. Though, it is important to make sure every side is heard.