At the beginning of July this year, I was invited to an event called the Klerksdorp Youth Leadership Talks. While I was there, one of the five speakers who was set to give a talk about the Fourth Industrial Revolution spoke about “black tax” – a topic that always comes up whenever young black people meet up to discuss the future and their role in it.

For those of you who don’t know what it is, “black tax” if a phrase mostly used by young black people to describe the financial responsibilities they inherit from their families once they become employed. So, when the speaker brought up the topic of “black tax”, saying that it is a problem that young black people need to solve if they want to succeed, this started a conversation that went on even after the event was finished.

Black tax, most people will agree, is one of the most debated topics in the black community. One side of the debate claims that it is because of things like “black tax” that most young black people will never really succeed in life, as it puts too many financial responsibilities on them; while the other says that taking care of your family should never be seen as a burden, especially if we as a generation are the only hope our families have to live outside of the poverty line.

I, as a young black person myself, agree with the side that says taking care of one’s family is not a burden, but a blessing. I grew up living in the same house with the majority of my family members. In the house there was me, my mother, my aunt, two uncles, my grandmother, and my two cousins. So, as a young person, I saw all of the family members who worked contribute to things like groceries, paying school supplies, and making other financial contributions to the house.

It is, therefore, because of these conditions that I grew up under that I find it difficult to see how contributing financially to one’s family as a burden, or how anyone can call it a tax.

I do not blame other young black people for believing the other side of the argument, though. As young black people, we grow up learning two different values about financial freedom. On the one side, we are taught by our families that we need to take care of all those of those around us. We grow up seeing our uncles, aunts, grandparents, and other family members contribute financially and otherwise to the development of the family. On the other side, we are taught by programs we see on television and movies we watch that financial success and freedom should only be for us, and that taking care of other people should be seen as optional.

Because the lives that young black people see on television and movies they watch look better than their own lives, it becomes easier for them to believe that the right way to do things is to only care about themselves financially, and call taking care of their families and loved ones “tax”. But I believe this needs to change.

As a generation that has financial opportunities that past generations never had, it is almost impossible for us not to inherit the financial responsibilities that past generation were never able to solve. With the little financial education and opportunities we get, it is our responsibility not only to help our families financially, but to also help educate them about how to responsibly use money.

I agree, inheriting our families’ financial responsibilities means that we will not be able to have as much financial freedom as other young people will have. It means that, unlike other young people, we will not be able to buy our dream cars, our dream houses, or go to our dream holiday destinations. But, and this might sound tough to hear, this is an unfortunate reality that we have to live with, accept, and hopefully change for future generations.

What I believe is, that instead of seeing these responsibilities as a tax, we need to start seeing them as opportunities to become the people who change our families’ financial futures forever. Yes, we will need to save up more than other young people and make more sacrifices than them. But, if making these sacrifices means that future generations, which include our own children, will have better chances of living financially free lives, then I believe these sacrifices are worth making.

Black tax, for me, is something we learned from sources that do not know the history we come from as a country and as black people. I believe that if we want to move towards a better future for ourselves and our families, we need to stop seeing taking care of our loved ones as tax.


Tell us: do you agree with the writer: that black tax is a ‘blessing’?

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For a different view on black tax, CLICK HERE to read another MindSpace column.