Everyone knows about the infamous date of April 15th. It’s the date that the U.S government has set into place as the deadline for you to pay your taxes. Of course, if you get a refund, you gleefully ignore that date and frolic about with your stacks of cash, but if you are the one who owes the piles, it’s not the most pleasant day.
You think to yourself, how in the world do I owe ANYTHING more than what I’ve already paid? How dare they think I can spare to pay any more of my hard-earned money on more taxes, of all the things!
But imagine that April 15th is every day and every day is a due date to pay taxes. That’s maddening. That’s almost tragic. Wait, it is terrible.
Yes, it’s tragic. Unfortunately, it’s real. Some people pay an emotional tax every day just for existing, a perpetual and expensive fee. A charge that seems daunting to keep up with. A tax that will one day cost them their lives if they aren’t careful.
One of my favorite people in the entire world, James Baldwin, stated: “To be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” His words eloquently describe what it’s like to pay the emotional tax, day in and day out. You know you are paying it, you know who you are paying it to, you see what it affords, but you don’t reap the benefits.
So what is emotional tax?
Emotional tax is the payment that people of color, women, and other underrepresented groups pay to inhabit spaces. It’s the constant payment of emotional, mental, and physical readiness to always be on guard to fight against, or in some cases, endure biases.
My soliloquy may be hard for some to swallow. But so is cod liver oil.outkast, wheelz of steel
This type of daily payment leads to mental health issues, emotional imbalance, and, quite frankly, the inability to focus on the work that you’ve been driven to do because you have to split your time and energy with “the tax.”
Just think about it, if someone works a 40-hour workweek (Do those still exist?) for 50 weeks a year (Let’s just say you get two weeks of vacay, but typically the people who pay this tax, don’t.), you have spent 2,000 hours of your life always being ready for some type of epic battle because you simply exist and take up space.
If you’d like to know more about this tax, check out the dope people at Catalyst.Org. They’ve been doing some real and extremely vital research on emotional tax and are trying to empower workplaces that want to reduce this tax for their employees. You can even download their report here. Dnika J. Travis and Jennifer Thorpe-Moscon released a report in 2018 entitled Day-to-Day Experiences of Emotional Tax Among Women and Men of Color in the Workplace. Click here to download the report.
Alleviating the charges of emotional tax is the epicenter of creating genuinely inclusive and equitable spaces. Charging others for just existing, as if they are a nuance, is at the root of supremacy. It’s the root of violence.