The Black Tax Isn’t Actually Black, It’s About Poverty


FastCompay regales us with yet another story of how the non-pinkish gammons are so hard done by in our current society. Those who are people of color suffer something called the black tax, those perhaps a little browner the brown tax. This is not some special evil inculcated by Donald Trump of course even though it’s a real thing.

The problem is that it’s nothing at all to do with colour, it’s about economic background. Poor people of any melanin content will suffer the same problem, richer people of any melanin level not.

Basically, poor people don’t have an economic support network and as soon as they start earning money they are it. This is nothing to do with skin colour:

There are plenty of obstacles for professionals and entrepreneurs of color: a wage gap, a funding gap, and plenty of discrimination. But for many there’s also an unspoken challenge while trying to build their companies, their career, or their wealth. A common phenomenon that some refer to as the “black tax”—money they give to family members each month. When Sheena Allen, founder, and CEO of tech companies CAPWAY and Phocal expressed the stress of “black tax” in a viral tweet recently, she started a conversation of what “black tax” looks like for black founders and professionals. “I feel like it was the elephant in the room, and nobody talked about it for some reason. Look, we all are in the struggle of the journey, but the reality of it is we don’t have this same advantage and opportunity of quickly building generational wealth,” Allen said.

This works both ways. Someone who is starting to make money becomes the support of others in the extended family. And also that extended family doesn’t have the odd $5k or $15k to fund angel sketches of new designs and products. So there’s not that economic support network that a middle class striver might have and also on the journey the striver barely gets out of the gate before becoming that economic support for the extended family.

There are times this is more culturally based. In West Africa that kinship network can spread pretty far – the nephew of the bloke who used to date your sister might well actually expect, not just hope for, significant support. Near anyone identifiably from the home village will expect it. It also works the other way in some of the merchant cultures, perhaps immigrants from Gujarat or of Hokkien back grounds. That extended kinship group capitalises the new adventure – often enough in that first generation a bodega, a restaurant, a rental house – and the favour is paid on to the next off the boat.

There’s nothing we know of that tells us that African Americans have a different such definition of the extended family than white Americans, nor different expectations of who should help whom. Thus we’re not really here seeing a black tax at all as it’s not racial in base. It’s simply a correlation with the generally worse starting point of blacks in American society. All poor people face the same problem.

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Jonathan Harston
Jonathan Harston

Looking at it the other way, where has the culture come from of being horrified at the idea of sponging off your relatives? I don’t how, but it was firmly inculcated in me while growing up that I had to support myself and not expect others to do so.