Beware of The Minority Tax

It’s time to pay your taxes!!! I never believed in the concept of burn out until I finally burned out. For years and years I told myself to push through and that nothing could touch me. Then I realized we are all human and everyone can be touched. This caused me to take a step back an ask myself what it was that drove me to such fatigue. It was the “minority tax”.

Minority tax is the basic concept that when you are one of the few racial/ethnic minorities you’ll be called upon more than others simply because someone who looks like you needs to have a seat at the table. For example, as one of the 2-3% percent of black men in the medical field, I am often asked to do certain tasks related to getting more black men in the field of medicine. Fortunately, I believe that is important work and I enjoy doing it. However, it’s not all things of a similar vein that I desire to do, yet I understand the need to have a representative voice.

The real issue with the minority tax is more often than not, we are not credited for the work that is done. Keep in mind that I said credited, not acknowledged. Typically, we are expected to do the same amount of work as everyone else, PLUS that which is specific to our minority status. That’s why it’s called a “tax”, we have to do more than others. The downside to this is it makes career progression more challenging. It becomes more difficult for us to perform other assigned tasks to the degree of excellence which we otherwise could. Again, I’d like you to pay special attention to my choice of words. I said it becomes more “difficult” not impossible. That is important to note because we still have to find a way to perform at that level.

I’m writing this blog specifically with students in mind. I want you to be familiar with this tax before Uncle Sam comes knocking on your door. Prepare for it and have strategies in place to ensure you perform at a level of excellence while paying the tax collector. The answer is NOT to avoid the taxation. We need your voices at the table. Rather, prioritize what’s important to you, master the work so you become efficient in it, then train up the next generation to do the same.

Nobody said this journey into and through medicine would be easy…but I am telling you it will probably be worth it!

Mereena Jolly

This is so interesting–I never really thought about this but I can definitely see how minority tax would lead to burnout. Great article!

4 years ago

Dr. Daniel

Very powerful blog. This is an underappreciated topic. Especially for all of you in academia. Navigating it must be difficult.

4 years ago