Master’s degree graduate weighs in on some “black tax” misconceptions
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Research on black tax by a Master’s Degree graduate from UKZN has revealed that some young Africans find financial family obligations a burden.
Black tax is financial support that black professionals are expected to extend to their families. Depending on the family’s needs, the list of financial responsibilities includes and is not limited to monthly groceries, school fees for younger siblings, bond repayments, utility and medical bills as well as assistance with the upkeep of the home.
Scelo Manyoni, 25, from KwaMashu, looked into the family obligation in black households and familial intergenerational support and also examined the experience of students on whether they identified it as burdensome or an act of ubuntu. These black students were from different parts of Africa and employed on fixed-term contracts.
Manyoni said growing up in the township, he believed that assisting family members was a norm and that when he was younger he often witnessed uncles bringing groceries to his home and he aspired to be a family man who took care of his family.
However, things quickly changed during his first year at UKZN when a discussion on family obligations introduced the term black tax to him.
“I then found out that what I had always known as a norm among black households was being called a tax, it was then that I decided to embark on this journey to address the misconception and the delusion around this practice,” he said.
“My topic was not driven by personal experience but observation. I have never felt any pressure to support my family, therefore, this study was conducted out of curiosity.”
Manyoni said while looking broadly into black tax, he found that some did not appreciate the term black tax as helping family was a blessing.
“However, some viewed it as burdensome, meaning it does not address the issue of poverty within the household but instead puts more strain on finances. Those who hold that view complained that they could not progress in life because they need to take care of the entire family,” he said.
“To some who believe that you cannot prosper alone, it is an ethical imperative, a principle that has been passed from generation to generation. They believe that they are alleviating poverty or addressing the imbalances of the past. Furthermore, they perceive it as a blessing to be finally able to take care of their families.”
Manyoni said it was impossible to talk about black tax without mentioning race or racial inequality and that the sins of apartheid were still on the shoulders of youngsters.
“The younger generation is still fixing imbalances of the past. If our parents had the same opportunities as their white counterparts, their children would not be feeling the need to cater for them. Personal growth and development is normally put on hold while taking care of those who took care of you and the country’s unemployment rate at 32.6% and youth unemployment at 74.7% is not helping”, he said.