As young children, most of us were impatient to become adults and start living full independent lives. We could not wait to go out without seeking permission, get jobs, make our own money and spend it as we wanted to. However, the harsh reality of ‘adulting’ has introduced us to rents, bills, feeding costs, transport costs, income tax and in some cases, black tax.
By black tax, I’m referring to that contribution you have to send home every month, irrespective of your financial position, to pay for your younger brother’s tuition. Another example is that amount you have to send to your mum to start a new business even though she hasn’t shared her business plan with you.
While the tax is mostly about the cash element, I’m going to include the non-cash elements. The expectation from family members (and dare I say, friends) who feel that since sacrifices have been made to help you get a good education and as a result, a better life, you have to do the same for them. The guilt you feel when you choose to save that extra percentage of your salary and not send it home. The laziness from siblings who feel that because they have that sister or brother who lives in the city, they do not need to fully apply themselves to their chosen endeavours because they are covered.
Don’t get me wrong; black tax isn’t a condemnation of support of your family – afterall, when you care for people, you would want to help them when you can. However, when you are pressured to provide what is usually provided by those that lead the family or where there is that sense of entitlement, this is black tax.
We know that black tax is not limited to the black society but it is quite common here because of our sense of family and community. If we don’t take care of our family, who will? We truly live by the saying ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Our parents invite our less privileged relatives to live with us while they pay for their school fees and upkeep. Relatives are involved in our discipline and are just as hard on us as our parents. It has been this way for forever and would probably continue for a while. As a result, you have the pressure not just from your immediate family, but extended family as well. We also have large families and the financial burden can be too much for the parents to bare alone. Unfortunately, we we do not have government policies or schemes that help to alleviate this burden so we share it.
This ties into the economic theory that poverty is structural. Basically, this school of thought believes that people are in poverty because the economic system provides them with inadequate jobs and inadequate income – jobs and income that are determined by government policies.
The concept of black tax has been around for a long time and for a while was accepted as part of our way of life but thankfully the more recent generation do not feel as obliged to pay it as our parents did. This is due to increased education and exposure as well as a change in attitudes. For example, my girl Chioma, told me about a conversation she had with her mother where her mum expressed her desire for her brother to get a good job so that he could take care of his parents and her.
She could not believe what her mum said. ‘What about him?’, she asked. ‘Don’t you want him to get a good job so that he can take care of himself?’ Her mum laughed and said ‘Oh yes, that too’. In annoyance, Chioma told her mum that it was not her brother’s responsibility to take care of her because he was not consulted before her conception and birth.
I don’t know if black tax would ever be a thing of the past but it’s encouraging to see that the need for it is reducing. And if you are one of those with such expectations, spare a thought for your sibling who you are placing such pressure on. You are not their responsibility.