The Black tax: A look at the cost of being Black in America

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- This week, we all watched as Simone Biles gracefully bowed out of Olympic competitions, citing her mental health and the pressure of being the best in the world.

But there's another hidden pressure and a harsh reality about being Black in America. Some call it the 'Black tax,' and many Black Americans say they feel it every single day.

It's the sense of heaviness when one feels the need to work harder and pay more to reap the same benefits, wealth, respect and opportunities as their white counterparts.

Kevin Lightfoot, an executive producer at ABC13, said he was introduced to the 'Black tax' as a little boy.

"I remember being 5 years old and having a conversation with my mother about ... you've just got to be better," he said. "You have to do everything better because you're not going to get the same opportunities others are. That's a conversation that starts early in our community, and it happens often. You just carry that throughout [your] professional life and your personal life."

Reg Clark, a human resource leader and diversity and inclusion subject-matter expert, recently tackled the subject of the 'Black tax' on his Apple podcast, "The Diversity Dude."

"A lot of people ... they're finally coming around to agreeing with the terms that white privilege does exist. Then, how is it paid for? How is it financed? That's the Black tax," he explained. "The fact that some people are penalized for no other reason than the color of their skin. There are some people who are penalized just by their names, and we know that.
We've seen research, and we've seen stories where people with ethnic-sounding names on a resumé may get passed over. Again, that's another example of the 'Black tax.'"

Clark said there are many ways the 'Black tax' is paid.

Some Black Americans who have "made it" or make a good income say they're taxed with the heavy obligations of helping other family members.

Lightfoot said he's certainly paid that.

"You have this strong sense of community, and there are those who aren't in the position that you're in, and you are required," said Lightfoot. "You feel this obligation to give back to those people and kind of pull them up to where you are."

While some have criticized Simone's decision to back out, many are praising the gymnast for beating the pressure, by pausing and taking care of herself before she paid an even higher price.

"If people can really look into that and see how taxing and mentally taxing that can be to an individual," said Clark. "To always be on display. To always be exemplary. To always be an example of an entire group of people, and to carry that pressure with you ... not only is she great at what she does, but to have four moves named after her, and to have one of the governing bodies say, 'Wait a minute. Your moves have too much difficulty, and we're going to have to pull back on you.' That's just that idea that you carry all of and she's gone through all of these things, but yet she's still expected to just continue to perform at a high level."

For updates on this report, follow ABC13 anchor Chauncy Glover on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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