Tax Edition: POC Taxes & Where’s Our Refund?

4515121In the spirit of Monday’s tax filing deadline, this week members of the Fakequity team and a few members of our extended Fakequity Facebook family are requesting a “people of color tax refund.” I’m guessing if you’re a person of color (poc), you know what the POC tax feels like: that gut wrenching, emotional toll that you experienced today when you were profiled, doubted, dismissed, or looked at with fear/pity/disgust/discomfort. And, most likely you can also do the financial calculations on the how much money you’ve lost in earnings for lower waages, dealing with stress, or the extra time you had to spend proving yourself or gaining trust and respect.

Last October, Gillian B. White wrote an article for The Atlantic titled, Black Workers Really Do Need to Be Twice as Good. “African American employees tend to receive more scrutiny from their bosses than their white colleagues, meaning that small mistakes are more likely to be caught, which over time leads to worse performance reviews and lower wages.”


Gillian B. White wasn’t the first to write about this topic, and surely we won’t be the last. People of color have been talking, writing, blogging, and tweeting about the POC tax for a long damn time. Yet, too often, we are dismissed as being too sensitive and overly emotional, and told our message would be better received if we could deliver it in a more “rational and logical” manner.  Many times we try hard to be “less emotional” and “more comfortable” (ask yourself “more comfortable” for whom?) in order to be heard.  We ask our White allies to help deliver the [same] message, because we know in many case they will be heard differently. But honestly, we’re not doing anyone any favors by “making things comfortable and less emotional.” The impact of Racism – individual racism, institutional racism, and structural racism – is NOT COMFORTABLE for people of color, it’s taxing, both emotionally and financially for people of color.

There are financial implications as well. April 12 was Equal Pay Day even in the discussion about equal pay women of color have a huge poc tax burden. Check out How Equal Pay Day Excludes Women of Color for more dialogue on this topic. “This is not a day about equal pay for everyone—instead, it highlights the discrimination that largely white women face, and then puts the onus on all women to fix it.”

There are so many ways the POC tax manifests. It is an impossible topic to adequately cover in this short blog post. Since the Fakequity team spends a lot of time working on racial equity and social justice, we decided to stick with our roots and offer examples of how the POC tax shows up. We also crowdsourced some examples from our extended Fakequity family. In an effort to keep things real and truthful, we shared our answers uncensored.  This is our gift to ourselves, exempting us from the time it takes to make our message palatable. White allies, consider this a gift to you as well, our words and thoughts as we think and feel them.

Fakequity Team

  • I find it taxing hearing people use the word equity but not to talk about race. (Asian)
  • When organizations hop on the “bandwagon” of using race and equity language to articulate their values but haven’t even begun to think deeply about what it means or do the work to truly implement it.  When the white person in the training or meeting wants to tell me as a POC person about race and equity issues as if I either have no experience or knowledge or what I do have is not relevant.   When you would rather talk about poverty instead of race and equity.   When white colleagues want to discontinue the conversation about race when it makes them uncomfortable. (Black)
  • When I have to explain why I don’t and can’t meet with every majority white-led organization that just wants some equity “advice,” for free. When I have to respond to allegations of “reverse racism” or “why I don’t include the White perspective.” (Asian)
  • When I have to say the same thing multiple times, but still am not heard. When White comfort is more important than dealing with systemic racism.  When organizations hire the White person to talk about equity, because that is what is most “comfortable.” (Asian)

Sampling of Answers from the Fakequity Extended Family 

  • The lack of humility and self-awareness that allows some people, especially those who are privileged, to not see the effects of what they say or do. (Latina of Puerto Rican, Irish, and German origins)
  • Tired of folk knowing ALL of the language but still showing up in spaces with no idea what it should look like in day-to-day interactions. (Black)
  • I find it taxing when speaking about race or equity, it turns into tone policing. If not that, it’s a “why didn’t you tell me?” conversation to justify the intentionality behind the negative impact someone’s incomplete thoughts, mis-informed decision, or need to “care for others b/c said person knows what’s best for POCs as a non-POC.” (Black)
  • I find it taxing for white people to say” it is not about race it is about economics ” (Black, African American)
  • I find it taxing to continue to hear how people want to celebrate diversity with cultural potlucks. (Asian)
  • Working with people who think they are farther along in their DEI [Diversity Equity Inclusion] progress than they really are. (Korean American)
  • My latest thing is racism by white liberals. For example, one of my acquaintances is a white male and he is a strong supporter of black lives matter. BUT, his behaviors/attitude is full of Whiteness, and he can’t even hear feedback from us, people of color. Just because his wife is POC, it doesn’t mean he can appropriate our culture and become POC! (Japanese)
  • When the focus is on making sure we change the attitudes of each and every person rather than actual make things better for people of color. (Mixed Race)
  • I’m tired of people wanting to look diverse but not really act and uphold the principle of diversity. (Indian American)
  • Just simply talking about it. It’s emotionally and mentally draining. (Vietnamese)
  • Hearing a White boss say “What are you complaining about, I see diversity in the room,” but refusing to acknowledge the power differential – PoC work in the field and Whites have the corner offices. (Mixed Race)
  • When people don’t record my words exactly as I say them. My English may not be perfect but I know what I said. Don’t make it sound pretty, I don’t want pretty, I want to be real. (Somali)

Those examples are depressing – they are… just sit with that emotion for a minute or five. What do we want? I hear some [White] people whispering for actions suggestions, this is not that blog post, this is the “let’s sit with the POC tax” blog post. The simple-not-so-simple answer is we want racial equity and systemic racism/systems of white supremacy to be eliminated.  As we work towards that goal together, here are a few immediate things we’d like as a POC tax refund for 2015.

Financial Compensation: 
·         I want paid time off. Give me a break from all of the meetings, trainings and false conversations.
·         As a POC, I’d prefer a promotion or raise instead. As a tax return, I’d like a new bike too.
·         I got what I want. $52!!!
·         Funders who will fund our work at what we deserve so I can get a raise, cover insurance, housing, and child care cost, and still go to happy hour.

Comfort Items:

  • A new phone and some tacos


    happy hour open tab please

  • I would like a subscription to the chocolate of the month club!
  • I want STEAKS…medium rare ribeyes
  • New couch
  • I want somebody to do deep cleaning of our house and meal prep for a week
  • Hot tub!
  • An open Happy Hour tab

Acknowledgment of the POC Tax:

  • The impossible: more “aha” moments for those in power.
  • Understanding
  • Equity and acknowledgement of the messed up systems we have created for ourselves.
  • Learn to listen to POC uncensored
  • White people to shut up and listen.

Here is to hoping our POC tax refund request in 2016 is less.  First time, I’ve ever wished for a smaller tax refund.

Posted by Heidi Schillinger and the Fakequity team and Facebook Crew