I was recently speaking with a colleague regarding ‘the Black Tax.’ He found it difficult to believe that educated and somewhat financially successful African-Americans are expected to pay a ‘Black Tax’ by their own people.
I took my time to carefully explain to him that ‘the Black Tax’ is not an actual tax in the sense of other taxes such as sales tax, property tax, state and federal taxes, it nevertheless is one that successful African-Americans repeatedly pay. My colleague was shocked to learn that successful African-Americans pay ‘the Black Tax’ to those who have yet to find their way to socioeconomic success. ‘The Black Tax’ is similar to state and federal taxes in the following manner, those with access to financial capital are expected to pay a higher proportion of taxes. The vast majority of African-American professionals realize that as they climb the ladder of success that their ‘Black Tax’ obligations will skyrocket.
I will be truthful and tell you that I was shocked to find the following definition for ‘the Black Tax’ on the internet. It read as follows. The Black Tax is the financial responsibility of providing for the extended family and describes the challenges faced by black people in a society characterized by pervasive and institutionalized white privilege and racism.
It appears that ‘the Black Tax’ appears in two forms, one version occurs among African-Americans, while another form is displayed when educated blacks encounter an invariably hostile white business world. It is the former that I am focusing upon in this posting.
Most successful African-Americans will tell you that the call to ‘give back’ always accompanies their individual success. Now I do not want you to think that I am referring to supporting one’s parents or grandparents who have poured so much into you, I am speaking of a sinister entity that has convinced itself that their financial fortunes are inextricably linked to someone else’s. The believe that when you get paid, they get paid.
African-American professionals are paying ‘the Black Tax’ by following orders to share their hard-earned financial capital with those who have not reached similar heights. Trust me when I say that these requests run the gamut from purchasing food through posting bail and assuming responsibility for exorbitant legal costs for wayward family and friends.
Unfortunately for black professionals, ‘the Black Tax’ is an inescapable reality that has its genesis in multi-generational poverty that has shadowed African-Americans during the past four-hundred years. It is this tradition of African-American economic impoverishment that sits at the center of contemporary manifestations of the ‘Black Tax.’ In every way, the economic impoverishment of Black America mandated collectivist survival strategies among extended families; often, hardships elongated these plans to include entire communities. Put simply, the effects of discrimination and institutionalized racism pre-determined that the only path for African-Americans to “make a way out of no way” was by pooling their meager resources into a large communal pot.
Although many within our community believe that ‘the Black Tax’ is a permanent yoke that financially successful African-Americans are going to honor until they die, such individuals are at some point in their life going to be disappointed. There appears to be a consensus among those African-Americans who believe that this albatross known as ‘the Black Tax’ has hung around their neck for far too long that it is time for wayward family members to rise to a ‘higher level’ of achievement and responsibility.
According to Monroe Community College Vice-President Anthony Quinn, “The coddling is over. It is time for these fools to get their lives together and become responsible for themselves and any children that they have created. I refuse to help anymore.”
This rapidly developing schism among ‘the Black have’s’ and ‘the Black have not’s’ emanates from a growing disgust among industrious African-Americans regarding the wasted educational and employment opportunities that undergirds so much of today’s black suffering. Brooklyn, New York, bed-and-breakfast owner Tiffany Thomas has a daunting view of those African-Americans who have squandered opportunities before seeking what amounts to ‘alms for the poor’ donations.
“Look, there are grown men on my block who are hanging out all day, every day. They are out there when I take my child to school, and they are in the same spot when we return; just existing. Not living, they are just existing. Now if that is how they consciously choose to waste their lives, fine. But, don’t dare look for me to supplement your weed-smoking and beer drinking with my hard-earned dollars. It’s not going to happen.”
Although those who have coupled an extravagant lifestyle with cultural dysfunction, the actual root of so much black suffering, appear oblivious to this fact, they are facilitating a growing divide within Black America.
“I want nothing to do with no Niggas,” Tiffany Thomas offers, “You tell me what they are good for? Name me one thing that they contribute to not only America but also Black America. Hell, if you ask me, they are the ones who bring every single problem to Black America. Crime, that’s them. Domestic violence, that’s them. Rape, that’s them. Robbery, that’s them. Littering, that’s them. Public indecency, yep, that’s them again. That is why they need to go, I don’t care where they go, they just need to go.”
One has to wonder, how long ‘the have not’s’ will continue to ‘the Black Tax’?
If ‘the have not’s’ took a moment to reflect upon who is ultimately responsible for their successes and failures, it should become evident that they are. Such individuals must take responsibility for their lives and stop looking outside of themselves for their wants and needs. Unfortunately, such rationality will remain elusive for ‘the have not’s’ because it causes them to accept entire blame for the mess that their life has become.
The ‘have not’s’ must do better. However, I seriously doubt if they ever will.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
© Manhood, Race, and Culture, 2016