A crisis of identity

Identity Crisis is an issue often brought about in instances of migration or dual nationality. It’s very common for many, especially young people of colour and I felt it would be an interesting idea to hear first hand from someone who feels they made it through their own identity crisis to hear what it’s like to go through it and how they eventually overcame it. I interviewed a young woman named Saffa, as she shared with me her story.

Me:

What do you identify yourself as?

Saffa:

I identify as Sudanese, people usually find it weird when I say that because of my strange accent. My parents and siblings migrated from Sudan to Holland as refugees before I was born. So I was born and raised in a suburb in Holland.

Me:

What nationality are you?

Saffa:

Well, I’m of dual nationality; I hold both a Sudanese passport and a Dutch passport.

Me:

You seem pretty sure of your identity. Growing up as a black girl in a suburb in Holland, were you always so sure of who you were?

Saffa:

No, growing up as one of the only two black kids in my school situated in a predominantly white city, I always viewed myself as Dutch like everyone else. I found it weird when people used to ask me where I was from, whenever I answered and said I was Dutch, the other children would ask me why I was black. Which I never really had an answer to because I just couldn’t wrap my head around the question. Well, I’m black because I’m Sudanese, but aren’t I Dutch? I mean we speak the same language, right? This confusion led me to really question my identity, especially since there weren’t any other black girls around me that I could connect with, so I was often suffering through my confusion alone, I didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk to because I was different than all the other Dutch kids at school but then I was also different from the rest of my family because they were all born and raised in Sudan.  I mean I had friends of different ethnicities but they didn’t quite understand my struggle.

Me:

How do you think you overcame this?

Saffa:

To be honest, I’m not too sure myself. Two years ago when I was 16, I moved to London from Holland with my family. This change in culture really impacted me, for the first time I was surrounded by a lot of other first generation Sudanese kids that I felt I could connect with, and who could understand me. The change in culture and the extra time I ended up spending with my family gave me a chance to learn more about my Sudanese heritage, I asked a lot of questions about the culture and slowly came to the realisation that although I didn’t grow up in Sudan I was brought up in a Sudanese home, like a young Sudanese woman. Although I was born in Holland I never felt like I really connected with the culture.

Me:

I think that’s often the case with first generation people: when our parents migrate to the western world, although we’re not physically growing up in say Sudan or Nigeria or wherever they came from, we’re still being brought up in that culture. I was born a first generation Nigerian, born in London, yet I grew up very much in the Nigerian culture still. Around the clothes, the foods, the people, I think the idea of nationality causes a lot of confusion for people because it tells us where we’re from even though we may not agree with it; although I still understand why ‘nationality’ is a thing. As someone who has overcome their Identity issues, what advice would you give to others who suffer from ‘crisis’ of identity?

Saffa:

Learn to appreciate culture in general and take the time to understand the cultures you’re associated with. Take time to make a conscious decision to find out who you are for yourself, rather than letting others tell you who you should be. Your identity is yours, so don’t let others dictate it for you.

 

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