Black Tax? Black Middle Class and redistribution in South Africa
(University of Cape Town)
Paper short abstract:
In Urban South Africa the concept ‘Black Tax’ is used to describe the ways in which first generation black professionals are obligated to the family through remittances. The paper contributes to addressing questions around how Black South Africans navigate life in a post-apartheid context.
Paper long abstract:
In Urban South Africa the concept 'Black Tax' is perceived of as hindrance when one has ascended to institutionalised black middle class. As such 'black tax' is framed as stifling economic growth which is determined by growing black middle class. 'Black tax' describes the ways in which first generation black professionals are obligated to family relations through remittances. While 'black tax' is discussed widely in the media mainly from shared individual stories, black tax as a feature of black middle class remains subject to empirical interrogation. The ideas of 'black tax' claim a reverse of what apartheid said that black people support the extended family to exclude from grants and welfare. But the kinds of mutual support networks implied in this have been overly emphasised. That extended family do not only have a long and deep history. But also has long deep history and lost is that of the black middle class which arose soon after the colonial conquest, diamond discovery and demand for grain. In this paper, I address questions around (a) When and how did family obligations become tax? (b) For whose interest do such ideas serve? Through this, I will engage with debates around how black tax allows one to also understand the state and the economy by also focusing on the neo-liberal view underpinning national policy to achieve economic growth through expanded black middle class. Ultimately, the paper contributes to addressing questions around how Black South Africans navigate life in a post-apartheid context.
The urban and the rural in biographical constructions of urban African middle classes