Black tax is a system where African/ black professionals are expected to cater for the rest of the family, whether immediate or extended. Such expectations are mostly placed on the first child of the family, but it goes for every young educated professional. In a country where extended family links are prevalent, you can understand how embedded the black tax system is for young professionals. No wonder everyone is in a rush to make the soft life rather than put in the hard work and getting the results.
In our African cultures, it is impressed on us from childhood, especially firstborns that the prosperity of our family rests on our shoulders. We are taught to be a piece of a whole, and our parents intentionally impress certain characters in us to make us feel responsible to honour the black tax. Statements like “remember where you are coming from, and know where you are going” are re-echoed throughout our lives. With little or no preparation, the responsibility of providing for your immediate and extended family will rest on you immediately you can lift your head above water. We take on these roles, sometimes unconsciously. We see it as a way of paying back our family for their sacrifices or so we think. Black tax is mostly driven by guilt because of how we were raised.
Black Tax can be just the feeling of entitlement or the expectation by some people who think they should have access to your finances. Through community words or action they will tag you “the umbrella in the family”. When you hear such sentiments, run, don’t get lost in them. Most times, they come from people who did not contribute in any shape or form towards your wellbeing, they never cared. The moment you make something of your life you are in trouble. They try to create a benefactor position in your life with statements like ‘Na we men am ooo’ (meaning: we raised him/her). The black tax is one of the reasons responsible for low savings and capital accumulation by young people and hence they cannot make investments that will take them out of poverty. The recipients of black tax sometimes think you owe them. And so they’ll spend/mismanage whatever they receive from you. The sad part is they’ll come demanding your help because they know you are unable to say NO.
This system has led to a lot of financial and mental stress on young professionals since they most times find it difficult to say No. This is particularly so when the demand is coming from their parents. To be honest, most African parents are good at manipulating and gaslighting their children either for themselves or for other members of the household/community. So it is very important as young educated professionals we figure out ways to cope with this system. We should learn how to read and see through their demands and make informed decisions based on our budget.
LET ME SHARE WITH YOU SOME TIPS ON HOW TO DEAL WITH BLACK TAX.
1. Don’t you ever make the mistake of giving them everything they asked for, they will think you have a lot and will come again.
Start by giving a fraction – half or a quarter of what they asked for.
2. If you are finding it difficult to say NO, then focus on giving only towards important things that will make an impact on their lives. Focus on certain things that you consider serious such as health and education.
3. Choose one person in a family within the community at a time. If you decide to help that person make sure you let the rest of the household know that you will be helping that person and cannot be in the position to help anyone else within the same family for that period.
4. Do not give immediately they ask for help unless it is an emergency. Always try to give yourself time to work within your budget to be financially in the place where you can help them without neglecting your needs.
5. Try to know your limit financially and say No to anything above that limit.
6. Now by all means try not to fall into the ‘nice person trap. You do not give to be recognized as a good person.
7. Do not be a people pleaser because you will be left unpleasant. Those you are trying to please will never be pleased, and most importantly they can never please you.
8. Try to say No when the manner they request is not right. If the tone suggests you have money and don’t want to give or you have money and should give them, then try not to give them, that’s the typical entitlement syndrome.
9. Try to emphasise your needs and let them know if anything happens to you they won’t be able to help you or your family.
I truly hope these tips help you to navigate your way through the black tax system and just know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Try to help and give back to your family and community within your means. Black tax can take its toll on your life and well-being, therefore always be sure to put your needs first above all else.
© By Rahima Vandy Kargbo popularly known as dasalone-titi Rahima.