Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Pickney is not your pension!

Published:Tuesday | December 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM

I watched with utter delight on Sunday as Dalton Harris was named the UK The X Factor winner. His triumph seemed a long overdue respite from a life of abuse, poverty and pain.

Dalton's story will remind people to believe in their talent and reinforce the message that your start doesn't have to be your finish. He will be recorded in the annals of history as one more world best born on the biggest little island.

Even as I celebrated his victory, my heart bled because I knew 'the black tax' was already coming Dalton's way. And that tax is the worst kind because it isn't government-imposed. It's collected by those who claim to be closest to him.

South Africans coined the 'black tax' expression. It's a load carried primarily by people of the Negro race. While on the path to success, they are burdened with an obligation to raise up the social status of the rest of their family members.

They become a year-round Santa Claus, and their pockets are expected to spread cheer and happiness to those around them. Friends and family no longer want hugs, kisses and quality time. Love must be expressed in cash and kind. With palms outstretched, the theme song becomes, 'What have you done for me lately?'

It's become a very Jamaican thing, one reason the remittance culture grew so popular. As soon as people migrated in search of better opportunities, they were expected to 'send home a thing', with no regard for whether or not they were earning enough to share.

So many have stories of utter 'sufferation' in the US or UK. Tales of slaving in the snow, barely able to keep the lights on, but still being expected to send home a barrel. And so, "Weh yuh bring fi mi", became the welcome-home greeting.

I read two stories online in The STAR last Friday, and it was clear that Dalton's mother was slapping him with a rahtid black tax - even before he had won the competition. In the article, his mother is quoted as saying (with a straight face), "Dalton, a you me a wait pon to buy me dream house ... . Him have a song weh him sing, Pauper. Part of it weh hit me a weh him seh: 'Mi mother need bread and butter.' Me need bread and butter now."

If Dalton ever gives his mother that bread and butter, I hope it choke her. Of all the people to have expectations, she should be at the back of the line. In the article, she confirms multiple instances of abuse she either dished out or allowed to happen to Dalton with nonchalant matter-of-factness. Everything, from her boyfriend punching him to telling him to commit suicide, she can explain. And yet, she wants a two-storey house from the boy whose head she burst with her slipper in a fit of rage.

Too many parents see their children as a pension. As their meal ticket after 60. They guilt their offspring into feeling obligated to take care of them, as if providing food and shelter was a favour.

It's unfair to tell your child you suffered because you took care of them. They never asked to be born. It's unfair to expect your child to finance your twilight years. It's a noose around their necks at a time when they are barely staying afloat.

The cycle of poverty perpetuates because of the black tax. This compelled, premature giving back causes whatever little money that's earned to be divided and depleted before it can ever multiply. Children don't ever get a chance to save or invest. They have nothing to pass on to their children, and the cycle continues. And it's unfair.

Congratulations, Dalton. Yuh mek wi proud. You may have won The X Factor, but the bigger 'X' now is on your pocket. It marks the spot, and all and sundry will want to make claims about how they contributed to your success.

Spend slowly. Feel obligated to no one. It takes money to make money. Get a financial adviser, and make a solid plan to multiply your winnings - before the tax collectors come.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a broadcaster and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@gmail.com.