Sunday 11 April 2021
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The burden of black tax

“I don’t always know how to say no. For years I have put myself in harm’s way, trying to help other people. I think it is extremely important for people who find themselves in this situation to learn how to say no, without an ounce of guilt. We have to learn how to ‘put our own oxygen masks on first’ as a community,” Samantha opines.

Black tax is a colloquial term used to describe black people who share their salary with both their immediate and extended family while trying to balance their income.

Black tax is a financial contribution which continually links emerging black middle class professionals to their (supposed) economically disadvantaged family. No matter the circumstances in your family, this compulsory payment for the mere fact that you are black and making an income (forget successful) is exhausting and significantly impairs the future of the black middle class.

Growing up we afforded heroic status to the ones who raised us. They made it look so easy. We ate, we went to school, played in the streets to our hearts content, we dressed well and they never seemed to struggle, probably hiding the harsh realities of life from us.

As we get older and give back, we understand that they only made it appear easy. They made impossible ends meet with very little income.
So when you grow up, its payback time. It goes as far back as being told “when you get a job, your first paycheck must come to me. I have spent a lot of money raising you and putting you through school.” And this demand can be made by anyone who had anything to do with your upbringing, whether they babysat you irrespective whether they are related by blood or not. It is almost an indoctrination and a constant reminder that you ‘owe’ something and that debt is never fully repaid. You have to pay till death “do us part.

This situation can cause stress, anxiety, depression, bankruptcy and even suicide. People might begin abusing substances or act out violently and unhealthily, hurting themselves and others.

The overwhelming feeling of responsibility that has been so quietly and unconsciously ingrained often makes it difficult to admit that you are suffering. Talking about it makes you feel like you are blaming your family for your pain.

“I feel like it is the elephant in the room and nobody really even talks about it for some reason, except in a self-deprecating way.


We all are in the struggle of the journey, but the truth is we don’t have this same advantage and opportunity of easily building generational wealth.” Joey is a woman who feels obligated to cough up whenever financial requests are made from her family (members), sometimes to her own detriment where she is forced to go without what she needs.


She is also a mother and says “I am trying my level best to equip my kids with the necessary skills. I won’t let them go through what I am going through. They must be self-sufficient and they should not fall into a trap of being or feeling obligated to take care of me. And I will never expect it or demand it of them.”

The most challenging aspect of black tax is deciding whether to help the family out even if you do not have anything to give. The decision to help family leaves many black people wondering if it’s their responsibility or a burden to support their family.

People impacted by black tax need to have uncomfortable conversations about their family members’ and even their own financial situation.  It will help to them manage their money instead of simply doling out cash on request.

Having knowledge of what your family members are dealing with, would help us  understand better why they are asking for money and possibly even discover that they may not need the money at all.

“We can only hope that we don’t exacerbate the situation by taking the same stance with our own children,” concludes Samantha.

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