Written by: Phindile Le Bris Sithole-Spong
If you are black then in all likelihood you have heard the term “black tax”. The urban dictionary describes black tax as “The extra money that black professionals are expected to give every month to support their less fortunate family and extended families.”. As a young black professional I can attest to this type of “tax, as I have experienced it in different degrees from family, friends and sometimes even family friends.
As a young, educated professional with a European husband. The burden seems even more overwhelming at times. In part because my family and friends believe that because my husband is white, he has more money. And therefore I have more money to give. The issue arises for me not just with this assumption. But also the stress young black professionals like myself face to live up to this idea that we are monied. As if being a young black professional isn’t stressful enough? And the burden often doesn’t end there. But we are also sometimes seen as the “bad guy” when we simply cannot give the expected money. Because whether our loved ones know it or not, we too have our own bills and expenses.
The issue is further complicated by the guilt that we are often made to feel. Especially, if like me you are one of the first in your family to finish university. Something that your family sees as a sacrifice on their part that has to repaid. For how long, is never clear.
Furthermore black tax places a great personal growth burden on young black professionals as we are unable to grow at the same rate our peers are. This growth includes personal growth like putting off studying further as the family needs you to start making money. Or class growth where you no longer have the extra income to save and invest in things such as property, savings, the stock market or anything else that can see you moving your life forward.
Whilst I am personally not against helping family out. I do believe that a frank discussion needs to be had. One that takes into account everyones expectations and capabilities. But also one that takes into account your dreams. Because what is the point in working hard, if you will not be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour?
Lastly, and this is based on my own personal experience, I do believe that we all reserve the right to say no. Especially when the support we give becomes a crutch more than a tool. An example of this is when you constantly give money to a sibling or family member and they use it for drinking or going out instead of the essentials. Or better yet to find ways for them to become financially independent too.
At the end of the day helping can be good. But what it should do is cause resentment and hate within the family. Or cause more issues than it is solving.
What are your thoughts and experiences of black tax?