It was just about a year ago when I for the first time, heard the term “The Black Tax”. I actually stumbled upon the expression in a video interview between Trevor Noah and Oprah Winfrey, which I have also shared below in this article.
After watching that video, I immediately began to reflect some more on my experience as an African in the diaspora — thinking more deeply about the broader implications of this phrase on the African Diaspora Community. And in this article, I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the subject.
The African Diaspora Community — Today
“People of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.” — African Union
In North America alone, the World Bank estimates that there are about 39 million African Diaspora; around 113 million in Latin America; 13.6 million in the Caribbean; and approximately 3.5 million in Europe. In another report, the institution also estimated that:
The African Diaspora Community sends more than US$40 billion annually back to the African Continent.
The above numbers succinctly uncover a salient point. While it might not directly indicate that the African Diaspora Community is a monolithic group, there seem to be a common understanding within various diaspora communities about the need to give back and support the continent. And this for the most part has primarily been in the form of financial remittances to the continent.
Collectively, these remittances do not only form an important share of the foreign reserves for many African Countries, but also help provide alot of the basic social amenities in many communities.
Understandably, when we consider the increasingly difficult economic and social situations in most of the countries on the continent, it just makes sense to expect that the majority of African Countries will continue to rely on the collective input and support of it´s diaspora community. And it is this expectation that inversely imposes a pseudo tax burden on the Africa Diaspora which has been described as “The Burden of The Black Tax”.
The Burden of the Black Tax: On a Personal Level
“That is going to be the greatest burden unless you free it from yourself. You (should) get to decide what that tax should be; nobody else gets to tell you.” — Oprah Winfrey
In the video below, Trevor Noah essentially describes what “The Black Tax” is about while sharing his experience. According to him;
The first generation of successful black people, means you now have to go back and work on correcting everything….
Essentially, from the day you stepped foot out of the African Continent, you became indebted to many people. They might be people you know or do not know directly, but nevertheless, all feel obliged to demand this debt of you whenever possible.
Now reflecting on the earlier days of my experience as a student in Europe, I can recall times that I had to work multiple jobs — in addition to studying full-time. On many levels, I struggle to make ends meet, and for a long period of time, I was the poorest I had ever been in my entire adult life. But my personal struggles never deter the expectations, demands and the burden of “The Black Tax”.
“As human beings, we have people who need from us. But we haven’t built for ourselves yet, so sometimes you have to build for yourself first, before you can give to others.” — Trevor Noah
In this piece, I decided to share my thoughts particularly with anyone moving abroad for the first time, or relocating to a more competitive society or environment. Especially within the first couple of months and years, it will become essential for you to prioritize properly, remain focused and first build yourself first. But as Trevor Noah concluded;
If you build it for yourself first, then you can give it to others!