I’ve had this piece in my head for a while, but for some reason, I kept pushing it back. But before we get started, I would love to know your comments when you finish reading. So please feel free to share your thoughts with me.
Let’s get started.
Black tax vs Ubuntu tax
The phrases black tax and ubuntu tax do not describe or refer to the same situation. They are related in a broader societal context, but they are not synonymous. The confusion is a result of the frequent assumption that the true definition of Black tax is layered and ambiguous.
One best example to illustrate this confusion comes from, the mediaonline when they said,
“Black tax is defined as black working class individuals who are financially indebted towards supporting immediate and extended family…”.
I am sure you’ve read something similar to this definition before. But sadly, this is the wrong definition of Black tax.
The phrase Black tax is a term used by black people to express the real and indirect situational expectation that is placed upon them; to work twice as hard or more than their peers just to prove that they are worthy of the same level of rewards, recognition and respect other races instinctively enjoy by virtue of their being. Black tax is about performing just to prove that your humanity is above whatever racial stereotypes exist around you as a person of colour – especially stereotypes about black people who share your demographics. Black tax is quite common in a lot of workplaces.
Think gender-tax on women for a moment, (by gender-tax I don’t mean pink tax). But real and indirect gender-based performance prejudice by men against women; the only difference is being black is the instrument of choice. Add the two. To assume that black women are taxed twice in their chosen career paths is not be misguided as such environments still exist. This is not to say things are the same everywhere, all the time.
The Media Online’s definition partly defines ubuntu tax. Ubuntu means “I am because we are and you are because I am.” This philosophy transcends the Western concept of community by recognising that our humanity is connected beyond proximity. As an African, I have this choice – that is based on principle – to nurture those who are weaker or lower than me by means of giving or sharing my resources so that they too can flourish or simply survive.
But in the context of our unequal country – as a result of the impact our present history has on us – progression and modernity in poor black communities are undefined and often confused with anything Western or Eastern in terms of products and practices. The tax part in ubuntu tax simply means that the act of extending goodwill is now less of a principle and more of an imposed expectation. It is imposed upon you to give, even when you do not have for yourself. I believe this contributes to the psychological pressure many unemployed black graduates and young professionals live with across South Africa.
Young professionals like me, for example, have an obligation to contribute to the idea of reconstructing the communities we come from; we are the ones with the inherent responsibility of improving the townships and rural areas “that made us.” And right before you ask, “Aren’t you supposed to be doing that in the first place? No, I am not supposed to be doing it – especially with resources I do not have.
Amongst other things, I am should be obsessing about connecting to ideas like designing an online African university specialising in African literature for Africa, the diaspora and the world because I come from a thriving post-colonial impact community. But I am not. Instead, I am still teaching my brothers and sisters how to jump over the hurdles of structural inequality. I am still fighting the effects of poverty in my mind and its elements in my in the lives of the community I come from.
I and many I’ve joined should not be fighting to prove the humanity of the people in the spaces we come from. We should not be explaining that those who live in townships are victims and products of a perpetual behavioural sink. But sadly, we are. This is the tax were are paying forward from as early as university – the substratum of the fees must fall movement is the need to be recognised and treated as a human being in spite of the financial background.
In its current form, our application of Ubuntu has become a kaleidoscopic expression made up of the sublime philosophy, philanthropy and charity. I hope that makes sense.
Lastly, the quality of life in any community influences the overall value of life for the individuals in that community. Simply put, in our society your value of life is still influenced more or less by your geographical address. So it would also be selfish and un-African of me and others to “progress” without creating a chance for someone who is in a situation that is similar to the ones we came out of or worse. Our lives are a product of random acts of Ubuntu from strangers, we do not exist outside the community. So, whether we practice Ubuntu, as a philosophy or we pay it forward as a tax, it is necessary for the development of our communities.
Continue reading… Black tax vs Parenting while black