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3 Ways To Deal With The Pressures Of Visiting Home

Including Black Tax

BY Yaza Team

Jan 19, 2021, 05:55 PM

We know that along with the undeniable joy of returning home and family get-togethers comes multiple mental health triggers that are hardly ever addressed in the Black community.

In fact, it wasn't until recently that young Black people have been able to admit - out loud - that on the other side of going home to visit lay the darkness that is very often talked about. This dark side lurks behind fake smiles around the lunch table and is partially the reason Cousin So-So has been drunk since he arrived back in the village!

Self-love takes a back seat for most people while at home as the triggers arrive, often dressed as jokes or as comments made in jest which can leave you unsure how to react. 

We spoke to Dr. Cino Shearer, a clinical psychologist and founder of The Cino Shearer Foundation, about ways to deal with some of the more common downsides of returning home.

Dealing with weight shaming

We recently saw a Tweet titled Boss Rules which said: “If anyone dares tells you that you are fat… eat them!” This brings us on to one of the first things black women have to deal with when they return home, the ‘oh my god you got so fat comment’, often made by neighbors, family members, and old friends. 

We know that there isn’t anything particularly wrong with weight gain if you love the body that you are in. But the problem - and core truth - is that when women gain weight there’s often a reason behind it and the one thing you can be sure of is that they know they’ve picked up weight and have insecurities around it. It’s this insecurity that leads to a deep sadness every time a happy drunk or a long-lost neighborhood nemesis feels the need to point out their love handles. 

Dr. Cino says: “Strangely enough, there has been an increase in unhealthy lifestyle practices since Covid-19 with people not taking good care of their weight or their skin, so these questions will come up and people will have something to say.

“The best way to deal with that malume or that aunt who forever has negative comments or negative things to say is to prepare yourself emotionally before seeing them. You prepare yourself by reading a positive affirmation, either on your phone or from a book, or listening to positive affirmation audio. Listening to or reading a positive affirmation before you enter a conversation where negative things will likely be said, will help you. It also helps to remember that when people have negative things to say often times it has nothing to do with you, it is a reflection of them.

“If you hear these hurtful and abusive words and they make you uncomfortable, remove yourself from that situation at once and find a place - it might be the kitchen or in the loo - and celebrate yourself before going back to the party."

Dealing with Black Tax

'Don’t go broke trying to impress family and friends’ is a piece of valuable advice we all received when we started working, but in all honesty, it is easier said than done and oftentimes wildly inaccurate. 

It is inaccurate because young Black people don’t break their back trying to buy clothes and groceries for their immediate and not-so-immediate family members because they want to “impress” them. They do it because they are often the only ones that can do it and the whole family is looking to them to come through. 

It’s called Black Tax or the ubuntu we are raised with depending on who is talking. It comes in many different shapes and sizes of requests. It ranges from your mother asking you to buy a goat for the ancestral ceremony needed for your younger brother who has a calling to your uncle instructing you to buy him a bottle of whiskey for old time's sake. It is the knowledge that no matter how little your stipend or salary is, you have to take money home to help out. It’s not fair but it is what it is.

It’s a little bit funny when you think about it because Black Tax isn’t even limited to blood relations. It is pretty normal for it to come from the mama who stays four houses from your house and asks you to give a lift to her daughter and her four kids “since you were driving home anyway”. 

It can come from a random person at the local tavern who can tell that you are not “local” which translates into you paying for a beer to quench their thirst. 

It can even come wrapped as a compliment from your aunt when she says: “That dress is so beautiful, can you please leave it for me when you go back to the city?” She’ll reason that things are cheaper there anyway.

We wish more than most people to be able to spend money on ourselves, to go on vacation, or buy a luxurious (read: this is a want, not a need) type of item but that just won’t fly. That’s not how we are raised. We are raised by the community and so, it makes sense that we often feel obliged to come back and care for the same community. 

However, it is a side life we never talk about until the bills start landing in.

Dr. Cino says: “Mentally and emotionally prepare your loved ones before you reach home. It is much easier to have a financial conversation over the phone than it is face to face. So call whoever has expectations and prepare them. Reducing expectations before going home will help.

“Suggest more financially savvy ways of spending money which will alleviate the stress that is often induced by the financial expectations from home meaning you don’t have to put yourself under financial pressure or stress.”

Dealing with toxic people

Returning home is also a lot like Facebook because it always rubs your past in your face. It forces you to relive memories - both good and bad. It often means confronting the people who no longer have space in your life but had thrilling chapters in your past or people who unfortunately you cannot escape, like family members.

Running into your ex trashy boyfriend who cheated on you will affect your mental health... no matter how well you have moved on. 

While reuniting with toxic family members is also difficult, especially if certain incidents have occurred that you’re still struggling to deal with but that other family members don’t know occurred, such as abuse, gender-based violence, bullying, or sexual assault. 

Dr. Cino says: “This always begins with speaking out. Breaking the culture of silence goes a long way, so one needs to speak out. It also doesn’t matter if you are shut down when you talk about it, make sure that people around you know what happened and someone will offer help. 

"The second tip is to apply as much self-love as you can. That is, find inner strength by praying, meditating, or doing something that you love, and that makes you happy. That can be as easy as taking a walk or something in nature.

"The third one is when you have a moment where you are courageous, take action. Do not convince yourself that it will not happen again or things will change, report it because it will never stop.”

Image: @clemono