There's a stigma attached to young black professionals who have incurred debt.
This stigma stems from the misconception that young black people spend their money irresponsibly, driving German cars, sipping copious amounts of French bubbly, while clad in Italian threads all in the name of accumulating Instagram likes instead of wealth.
Oh, how wrong and crudely reductionist these assumptions are.
Of course, we can't negate the fact that there are, in fact, people whose debt is a result of living beyond their means, but the majority of individuals in debt should not all be generalised into this category.
And now that we have started dipping our toes in December's sea of festivities, the looming burden of black debt is the shark fin in that inviting salty water.
As young black professionals prepare to return home for the festive season, they also have to gear up financially for responsibilities at home.
These responsibilities may include grocery shopping, contributing to fuel for trips, contributing to house renovations, buying electricity, airtime/data for cousins, nieces and nephews, paying for gran's medication, covering the bill for lunch and drinks, gifts and clothing, and contributing to various extended family functions and ceremonies (including funerals).
As a working black woman, you don't even have to be earning big bucks to be eligible for black tax and the (above) responsibilities. The fact that you earn a decent income means you instantly qualify.
READ MORE: How to survive black tax
See, black debt is not a mere consequence of bubbly, canapés, and December's sunny days.
December may be a lifestyle we all look forward to at the end of a long, grueling year, but that doesn't mean the 13th cheque doesn't double up as a reality check too.
"The research, conducted on a sample of 150 Lifecheq clients last year, 84% of those with high debt took a loan to help a family member or to adjust to a loss in the family. 80% of these professionals are supporting family members financially and otherwise, while 32% got into debt because of a vehicle finance on a luxury car. The study further shows that 24% of these professionals are working side jobs to make ends meet."
While the sacrifice of black tax is something young black women tend to do with a willing heart, being inundated with debt-incurring responsibilities while also trying to enjoy the financial fruits of your corporate labour can stir up feelings of both guilt and resentment, as 34-year-old *Nomsa Makhalima shared.
*Nomsa is a Cape Town-based data scientist.
She hails from the Eastern Cape, where the rest of her family still lives.
Although her family is somewhat comfortable, she has close cousins who have not been exposed to the same opportunities she was.
"There's this guilt whenever you do something nice for yourself or engage in a lavish activity every other weekend or so. Guilt in the sense that you can't be living it up at a rooftop bar, while your cousin of the same age doesn't have enough taxi fare to last the whole week to make it to her job as a cashier."
"I send data, and when I go home for December leave, I buy her a few items of clothing. And then I still buy groceries at home for Christmas because it wouldn't sit well with me to not help my mom out," she adds.
*Kopano Seageng, a 29-year old PR account manager, was saving up to travel abroad in January (when she takes leave), but when her dad lost his job in July, she had to quickly step in and contribute financially to lessen the burden on her mom, forfeiting her January vacation and falling behind on other personal account payments.
"I won't necessarily struggle in December, but I do know that this won't be my easiest December, as I have a lot more to take care of when I go back home," she says.
Black debt and December black tax both entail a constant game of playing catch-up plagued by inner conflict. On the one hand, you want to live your best life as a member of the "young, black, and gifted" generation, and on the other you're repairing the damages of historical debt and Cyril's turbulent economy. All from the same salary.
So can you really blame young black professionals for splurging on one material thing that makes them happy every once in a while?
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