Despite a recent report of an exodus of Black staff members, the Biden administration remains the most diverse in history.
High-level African American staffers in the administration refuted a Politico story about a so-called “Blaxit” at the White House, based on at least 21 Black staffers having left the White House since late last year or planning to leave soon.
Politico said some who remain described a work environment with little support from their superiors and fewer chances for promotion.
However, African American officials told the Black Press that the report amounts to little more than fake news.
“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, the White House director of African American media. “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.”
Trey Baker, the White House senior adviser for public engagement, also refuted the notion of a “Blaxit.”
“Every day, this administration works to ensure that it meets the president’s goals on day one: to approach every issue with an eye towards equity,” Baker said. “That includes both policy and personnel. I’ve seen firsthand the opportunities for growth and advancement at the White House. I know that there’s not only an open line of communication with senior staff but also ongoing efforts to be solutions-oriented.”
Rykia Dorsey-Craig, a former communications director for Democratic California Rep. Maxine Waters and current White House senior regional communications director, called it an honor to work for the administration and praised its record on diversity.
“Every day that I walk through those gates, I am aware of what an honor and privilege it is to serve in a White House that prioritizes equity and staff advancement,” Dorsey-Craig said. “I was promoted within my first year and now manage the Regional Comms Team, one of the most integral parts of our comms operation. My leadership and ideas are clearly welcomed and recognized by senior leadership, and I remain committed to this team and our work each day.”
According to an administration-issued fact sheet, the overall diversity of White House staff remains approximately the same as it was almost a year ago.
As of May 27, 2022, approximately 44% of current White House political appointees identify as racially and ethnically diverse. That number surpasses the 39.3% share of the national population who are part of diverse communities, according to the 2019 U.S. Census data.
Of the White House’s senior staff, approximately 57% are women, and 40% come from racially and ethnically diverse communities.
Currently, approximately 14% of White House staff identify as Black or African American, which aligns with the U.S. Census national population.
In addition, approximately 15% of Black staff have received promotions to more senior roles, which is greater than the rate for non-diverse staff.
Of the Black staff members who have departed the White House since the start of the administration, approximately 36% have advanced to new roles at agencies within the federal government.
Further, officials currently have a diverse slate of candidates for the vacant positions of assistant to the president and director of the Office of Public Engagement, including several Black candidates.
A Black woman will fill the deputy assistant to the president and deputy counsel position vacated by Danielle Conley, the White House said.
Administration officials also pointed out that Jamal Simmons filled the deputy assistant to the president and Office of the Vice President’s communications director role vacated by Ashley Etienne.
Kirsten Allen filled the spokesperson for the vice president post vacated by Symone Sanders.
Additionally, the Domestic Policy Council recently hired a Black staffer to serve as special assistant to the president on his Racial Justice and Equity team.
Alondra Nelson filled the director of Office of Science and Technology Policy post vacated by Eric Lander, while Karine Jean-Pierre took over as press secretary for Jen Psaki.
The Senate recently confirmed Shalanda Young as director of the Office of Management and Budget.
“The first year of the administration focused on building the infrastructure to support teams and their staff — ensuring they had what was required to successfully onboard and work at the White House to drive forward the president’s agenda,” a senior official said. “Over the past year, we have invested in building a diverse staff and supporting opportunities for growth and development.”
This month, Erin Wilson ascended to deputy chief of staff to the vice president and deputy assistant to the president, saying it’s an honor and privilege to serve the administration on their senior team.
“Since the campaign and joining the White House Office of Political Strategy and Outreach, [Biden campaign manager] Jen O’Malley Dillon has offered her support in any way needed,” Wilson said.
“I’m leaving to got to business school, which was always my attention,” added Niyat Mulugheta, an adviser to the chief of staff, Ron Klain.
Mulugheta counted among those Politico mentioned in their “Blaxit” story.
“Ron Klain has been extremely supportive throughout my time working for him. He wrote my letter of recommendation since I had to reapply. He gave me the opportunity to work on infrastructure implementation when I told him I was interested in implementation work,” Mulugheta said. “All that is to say, I’m really happy with my experience and feel lucky to have been part of this incredible team.”