A number of people have looked at the title I’ve chosen for my blog and had the response above, as in “What’s That?” Black tax is a term becoming increasingly popular, and it is one that is very helpful in identifying certain attitudes and actions toward African Americans. In earlier days, it described professional blacks or those with higher incomes feeling the need to help their poorer relatives financially.
Then it came to mean having to work twice as hard or achieve twice as much to be considered equal to white people. It is the second use of the term that is becoming more popular and I will be using it in that way.
I first heard the term in the movie, “Something New.” A black professional woman had climbed the ladder of success in her predominantly white company to eventually become a full partner, but she was at times discounted by high-powered white clients simply because of her race. It is actually a very compelling movie, and a romantic one at the same time. This woman came from a high society black family, and their views and customs were unknown to me before watching the movie.
Of course, as the son of a redneck bricklayer living on the wrong side of the tracks, the views and customs of the white upper crust society is pretty much unknown to me too. But back to the movie. The woman and her family had their own prejudices toward whites, but the young woman’s slowly developing interest in a white guy ultimately brought her and her family to a new place on that front.
If you decide to watch the movie, be warned that you need to fast forward the video through a couple of brief scenes. Other than that, it gives us not only the “black tax” explanation, but provides some good insights into black/white relationships.
I explained the term to a good friend of mine recently, a white guy, and just afterwards we watched “Gifted Hands,” the story of Ben Carson as one of the world’s leading pediatric neurosurgeons. I’ve seen the movie at least half a dozen times and my wife has read the book. Dr. Carson endured much racial discrimination as a child and in his early career.
Every time a scene in the movie depicted that, my friend quickly said “Black tax.” The concept, once understood, makes instances of racial discrimination jump out at you, especially the more subtle ones. Much racial discrimination these days is subtle, as people at least attempt to be politically correct, but it is almost an ever-present reality for our black friends.
Two blatant examples took place within days of each other last month (October) involving black female doctors flying on Delta Airlines. Two medical emergencies occurred, prompting flight attendants to ask for help from medically trained passengers. In both cases, the black doctors reportedly tried to answer the call to help, only to be rebuffed by the flight attendants because they couldn’t picture black women being doctors.
BLACK TAX!!! What embarrassing, shameful situations! There are millions of professional blacks in our country and in our world. To stereotype any race or culture as poor and uneducated is both shocking and sad. As I read about these accounts that took place on airplanes, I was more than ticked off, but I also had a sense of satisfaction thinking about one of my medical specialists. My primary care physician is a young Vietnamese doctor, and he referred me to a specialist for some tests who happened to be black. I didn’t care what color or gender he was; I just cared that he was a trained professional. He’s a great guy and a great doctor. After reading those black tax sickening accounts, I was especially glad that he was black!
Most of you reading this have a much better idea of what this part of the title means. My opinion is that most of you don’t fully understand just how large that privilege is and all of the ways it shows up in contrast to those of other races, especially blacks. One purpose of this blog is to educate whites about the plight of blacks, and to help us understand the breadth of the problem.
We white folks know a bit about slavery (but not nearly enough) and we also know generally what the Jim Crow laws were about. Those laws were designed to enforce segregation under the guise of a “separate but equal” banner. Those laws were deplorable and even the term separate but equal was a contradiction in terms. How can you be considered equal to the very ones that are subjecting you to staying separate from them?
I am now 74 years old as of October 27th. I grew up when the Jim Crow laws were in full force in my hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana. Of the many movies I’ve seen involving racism, “The Help” most closely approximates what the society of my youth was like. Unlike the other two movies that I mentioned earlier, this one had little to commend it and much to remind me of the sickness in the society in which I grew up.
As I tell my audiences when speaking about the movie, I only liked three parts of it: the commodes in the front yard of one bigot; the mother of the young white author finally getting enough gumption to kick another bigot off her property in no uncertain terms; and of course my favorite part: the chocolate pie incident!
Where We Are Headed in This Blog
Honestly, I am not quite sure where we are headed. I am quite sure that God put it on my heart to write on the subject, so he knows where we are headed. I want to help those of my race understand much more of what our black brothers and sisters are feeling and what they are facing. As I’ve said in recent lessons, they want us to begin by saying that we understand that we don’t understand what it is like to be black in America, but that we are committed to learning as much as we can and to helping them bear as many of their burdens as we can.
I also want to help both blacks and whites better understand what our Latino and Asian friends are feeling and facing as minorities in our society. Ultimately, I want all of us to understand how God views the different races he created and how he wants us to handle whatever injustices we encounter in a spiritual way ─ as we imitate Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth encountered discrimination of many types, and as we examine what he endured and how he responded to it, we will find our answers for the issues that we and those in our spiritual family face. The real issues are a part of the galactic battle taking place between God and Satan. 1 John 5:19 sums up the problem quite well in these words: “We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
That is why Paul could describe our pre-Christian days in this manner: “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another” (Titus 3:3). The world is a mess and we are in it, but we cannot be of it (John 17:16). The world is not fair nor will it ever be, but in Christ we can cope with the challenges, however intense they are and may become. That ability to cope comes from the Holy Spirit’s power, often finding its way to us through our spiritual family.
With that we begin, and where we stop nobody knows (except God). I foresee sharing many of my experiences from my childhood and adulthood. I sometimes have stronger emotional reactions to historical racial mistreatment than my younger black friends do. They only heard about some of the worst days from their parents and grandparents. I experienced it, but only as a witness. But even from that vantage point, it marked me in some ways for life.
Sometimes I likely have stronger reactions than older blacks, because they had to learn to take what came their way with the attitude of “Oh well, it is what it is. Just smile and keep going.” I admire them for being able to actually do that and maintain a relatively even keel in their world at the time. I hurt for them as I look back to what their race had to endure for hundreds of years.
Although things are much improved in their lot in comparison to what it was like back in my early days, we are far from eliminating bigotry and discrimination. Black tax and white privilege abound, and I pray that my attempts to address it honestly and spiritually can help us all. I want you and me to both pay all of our taxes to King Jesus, and I want us to enjoy the privileges that belong to his children. In the end, our lives must be centered on him and his ways, but we need him and each other in order to do that. May he bless us to focus on the right tax and the right privileges, and not let the world squeeze us into its evil mould (Romans 12:2, Phillips translation). Until next time…