I slapped this book on the restaurant table and the black kids my age picked it up. “So are you a victim of black tax, then?” That phrase makes me so uncomfortable. The idea of being a victim. And even the idea of Black Tax itself.
I was raised by an independent woman. Strong, fierce and prudent with money. When I was in my teens, my mother would hand over the bank card and send me to do the groceries. I saw what was left when I was done and for the rest of the month I would stress about making it until the next pay day. I never got pocket money and I never spent any money on anything for myself as a payment for my labour ( there were no sms bank notifications back then so I could have got away with it) and I resented this responsibility with every fibre of my being. I resented it being my responsibility and I resented not being rewarded for it.
Any adult will tell you that there are many things they did not understand about their parents when they were children under their parents’ roofs that they only now understand as adults who are trying to do the best that they can to make ends meet and to build a life they can be proud of.
As it is with most human conditions, Black Tax is both a blessing and a burden for me. I count myself favoured that I have the financial ability to assist back home. And it is an even bigger blessing that my family does not look to me expectantly for financial aid of any kind. I’ve always given what I was able to and willing to give. My mother stretched herself thin for me and I would do anything to make her proud and ensure that she is as financially stress free as possible today. But Biggy said it before he died: more money, more problems.
I straddle the fence between privellege and black tax. I took, not one, but two years off before going to university. But then again, while I lived in res, I didn’t have a fridge or microwave like my friends did. I was not bought a car for my 18th birthday and many of the little costs that came with varsity life came as a surprise to me.
Saying that I come from poverty would be an affront to my mother and my grandmother. My grandmother was a domestic worker in Jozi and barely raised her own children while looking after the children of other families, but my mother and her siblings grew up to be nurses and teachers with degrees and postgrads and honors. Who am I to call myself poor when I am a second generation graduate in my family?
It was interesting to read the different contributors’ essays about their own experiences. Some are relatable, but others reminded me that while I may carry some of the weight of Black Tax, I also count it a privilege that the weight is not as heavy as it is for those around me.