Black tax: a responsibility, not a burden

2018-04-20 11:41

Black tax is a legacy of the apartheid system brought into our democracy intentionally. The preferential treatment given to white people directly deprived black people of the opportunity to build generational wealth. With no equal rights for black and white South Africans at that time, white South Africans were able to enter democracy with proceeds of their wealth to give to their children, while black South Africans were allowed to enter the new dawn with no financial jump-start.

The current debate among young black professionals in South Africa is whether black tax is a burden or a responsibility. While there are many aspects to the debate, I here address the way it came into being, its role in society, and what should be done going forward.

Many young black professionals are faced with the pressure to redress the legacy of apartheid through black tax. In a recent article on News24, I read about black tax being a burden for a certain young black professional. I was left with a heavy heart as a she expressed how the tables have turned. She mentioned a few reasons why she feels this way, one being her brother’s asking for money to finance his lavish lifestyle that she cannot afford. She now feels unhappy about this state of affairs.

I hold a strong belief that the expectation or idea her brother holds about her finances could have been avoided, because black tax is not about feeding a lavish lifestyle. It is about fulfilling a responsibility. It is a burden to give another person money to buy expensive champagne to show off. It is a responsibility to buy another person school items such as textbooks. 

I believe the following are factors in holding the view that, as young professionals, our general contributions to black tax are a burden. We have shifted responsibility into a burden, failed to set and implement financial boundaries, believe materialism is the report card of success and find it unwise to communicate about our finances with our parents or guardians, as we believe that they are financially illiterate.

Yet setting the tone with them on how you are going to spend your finances with them reduces expectations, and limits unnecessary pressure. One should be transparent and share one’s financial vision and plan with those who benefit from their fortune. Go the whole nine yards. 

From a philosophical point of view, black tax should be seen as our moral motivation. Moral actions cannot be a burden if they are genuine. Moral actions are only a burden when our selfish ambitions want to overpower our responsibility. However, I do understand and encourage selfishness in the form of some savings and investments, in order to achieve a different reality – a reality that will turn the inherited responsibility into a sheer gesture of Ubuntu.

One feels compelled to break the cycle of socio-economic problems in South Africa by developing and supporting the coming generation in his or her family or community, through paying for tuition fees, giving an allowance, donating to a church or organisation, and putting food on the table in the house one grew up in. This is done mainly because we want to relieve our guardians or parents of the financial burden they face on a daily basis. This should be the first responsibility of a young black professional in South Africa.

The merit for fulfilling this responsibility is reducing the high levels of heritage illiteracy. Sakhekile Ngonyama Lorraine describes heritage illiteracy as a "Lack of Knowledge Syndrome":

"There is a Lack of Knowledge Syndrome (LKS), where people tend to learn and adopt negative and uncultured social values and then begin to forge their own principles based on the same toxic social, philosophical and ideological backgrounds. And the outcome of this creates grave mistakes where an individual begins to think that right is wrong and that wrong is right; or good is bad and that bad is good. The byproduct of such ignorance is moral degeneration and character deterioration."

Ubuntu, if we fail to communicate with our immediate beneficiaries about our financial position, or if we fail to set and stick to our financial boundaries.

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