Why ‘black tax’ is the enemy of progress - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 20 February 2021

Why ‘black tax’ is the enemy of progress


Have you ever heard of the black tax? If you are born and raised in Africa, you have probably seen or experienced the black tax in your lifetime, but you only know of it as a responsibility.

Black tax is generally referred to as the financial support black people give to their families. This form of support has been normalised within certain cultures and communities. The more successful sibling is expected to shoulder the responsibilities of the younger siblings as well as their ageing parents.

There is also another form of black tax that is not spoken about as frequently. This refers to the wage gap, funding gap or financial discrimination black people receive from organisations or financial institutions. This type of black tax is difficult to point out unless one compares their finances to a colleague of a different race. Lately, I find myself wedged between these two forms of black tax.

As Africans, my husband and I come from the background of expectations to take care of the rest of the family. Luckily, as a lastborn, my responsibilities are often limited to my parents or household expenses should I choose to contribute. My parents do not push us on the matter as they planned for their retirement age early on. On the other hand, my husband has younger siblings and some family responsibilities to shoulder.

The second form of black tax, it is something we find ourselves mentally preparing for. As working professionals in a European country, we realise that regardless of our qualifications and income, we will not be treated the same when it comes to finances. Our premiums, mortgages or leases will not be the same as other Europeans. The black tax, which will come in the form of “hidden charges”, will be in in every contract we sign. It will be invisible but as real as the air we breathe.

The black tax is the enemy of progress among black people. We can propose that the modern black educated man is successful in his career or start-up but still lives from pay cheque to pay cheque. Why? Because he is probably the first successful member of his family and is expected to ‘uplift’ the rest of the family. Instead of investing, they pay for schooling for the siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews. Instead of building their wealth, they are drowned by the burdens of the extended family.

I have heard many cries from friends and colleagues about the strain of black tax. While most people do it because they were raised to shoulder responsibilities, they often do not reveal to their families how much stress it causes them. Most men (especially) will never disclose their own financial troubles and go to extreme lengths to give in to the financial demands of the family.

The first form of black tax, that is, family support, often has no end. It is a vicious cycle that will only end if the flow of money ends because problems will never end. There will always be tuition needed, repairs, weddings, funerals or some type of emergency. For instance, one would expect after paying tuition for a relative until they finish school that it would be the end of that burden. However, more problems crop up after that. Such as starting a business for said person, helping them start out in life and, my personal worst, helping them pay for bride price or wedding costs.

Have you ever wondered why the likes of black millionaires like Oprah and Tyler Perry managed to hold on to their wealth? That is because they are not crippled by financial responsibilities to the family. Even if they do take care of their families, it is not the point of being leeched. Even Beyoncé had the courage to fire her father as her manager for mismanaging funds. There are many incidents of black people being swindled by their own families, but we are forced to forgive and forget in the name of family.

At some point, we have to realise that the black tax causes more harm than good. That this form of tax is the only tax that takes us further away from financial progression.


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