Just in case you missed part one of this thought on Black tax, you can click here
Black tax vs Black parents
In the process of undoing the impact of inequality in our families, each generation has to sacrifice a portion of its individual comforts and sometimes opportunities just so they can be able to create a better start for the next generation.
This is what many parents like mine did and they still continue to do so. My dad could have easily been a prominent businessman and my mother could have been the nurse she wanted to be but they had to sacrifice the little resources they had just so they can create an environment for their children to get a better start in life compared to theirs.
We are the bridge generation
I come from a very humble background but I am proud because I was brought up by selfless and resolute parents. But they are now old and their bodies are starting to give in to the ailments of ageing. Plus quality affordable healthcare is still a pipe dream in South Africa. Which means, now and then I need to assist where it’s necessary. This extends to my brother and I helping our younger sibling and so forth.
Like our parents, we often surrender parts of our lives for the opportunities of the next generation and the dignity of our parents.
Let’s pause and clarify the confusion
The term Black tax is offensive in the context of explaining your role in reciprocating support to the hands that gave up their life so that yours can grab hold of slightly better days. Thinking like that is expressly void of the principle of Ubuntu and love.
I mean, if you grew up in the townships or in the rural areas you will know that your upbringing was above ordinary because your parents did more than just provide protection, food, education and discipline etc. You know that they hustled hard for you, sometimes at the expense of their dignity. The only difference is we have more access and exposure to the world than our parents. This means that as a matter of principle our children should worry less about us when we’re old.
I grew up around mothers who went house-to-house offering to wash blankets by hand and feet. I grew up around women who sold vetkoeks and sweets at schools, the community clinic and at the taxi rank. I know retrenched and unemployed men who operate mini braai stands at the corners of busy intersections and in front clubs and taverns. They do it all so that their children may not fall prey to the elements.
My dad sold meat at some point from the boot of his Ford Cortina, whilst working for PA and afterwards Cross Cape. My mother ran our family spaza shop whilst working as a domestic worker. When I was about eleven years old, fortnight and month-end Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons meant walking zone-to-zone and knocking door-to-door selling Russian sausages. I still remember these days, I carried the sausages in a white ice-cream container with Milky lane branded in red and white on the lid, I carried a fork and a dry dishcloth to ensure that no one grabbed them by hand. In hindsight, experiences like this watered my entrepreneurial seeds.
See, we give to our parents not because we are emotionally blackmailed by their sacrifices, but we do so because we understand the principle of honour.
Ubuntu in the context of supporting our parents is about honouring who we are becoming. The principle of honouring your parents is as true to the African philosophy of Ubuntu as it is to any interpretation you may have of the Christian faith. It is a thank you that can never be enough. I am a huge believer in seeds. And honouring our parents is one of those seeds that leave our hands (with great discomfort at times) but their fruit never leaves our lives.
Lastly, it is not in any African culture for parents to expect their children to take care of them but it is in every African culture for children to honour their parents, according to each family’s individual position or circumstances.
Let me know if you agree or nah!