Identity Crisis: Unanswered Questions of Young Black Womanhood

Summer 2004 was the beginning of establishing who I am as an individual, as a woman, apart from my parents. Raised in a strict charismatic Christian home, I was eager to get out and experience life for myself. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

All I could think of was the freedom that came along with not being under my parents’ roof. Initially I didn’t think of the other individuals I would encounter, nor did I think of the consequences of my actions. It didn’t take long for me to realize that my new found freedom would come with a price. 

Growing up in a middle class home in a good neighborhood in Cleveland, I attended public schools and got good grades. I grew up restricted to movies rated G and PG, could only listen to gospel music, couldn’t date until 17 and was told to keep my legs closed. 

Fast forward to the present, now I am a 26 year old married woman, a card-carrying member of the college-graduate club who is currently on ‘hiatus’ from church working at a job that I really don’t care for, and I find myself experiencing an identity crisis of sorts. 

I feel conflicted at times, but I push myself to question -- to challenge the status quo. I’m not afraid of a paradigm shift, but it often means that the views I held from my upbringing may conflict with my current experience as a young woman. I’m still processing it all. 

A brilliant writer by the name of Kola Boof said it best. She said: ‘In order for a black woman to feel like she has an inch of humanity, she has to leave the black community.’

Wow. The sad part is that has been my experience. I can vouch for and say that it’s truth. The places I have felt fully at home, fully human, accepted for who I am, allowed to feel and not apologize for it? They were not in the black community. 

America makes it complicated to be a black woman, so does the black community as a whole, as well as the black church.

How do I deal with being a black woman in the hip-hop generation, listening to lyrics referring to women as garden tools and female dogs? Am I valued, am I listened to, are my feelings valid? Or am I just expected to suck it up and be strong, fight for my brothas who obviously have a complicated relationship with me? How can they say they love me but then cuss me out the moment I don’t give them my phone number or respond to their advances?

How do I cope with the fact that as long as white privilege & black male privilege exists, I am a double minority, meaning I often end up at the bottom of the totem pole in society? 

How do I reconcile a God who loves with a religion whose doctrine damns people to hell? And how do I deal with not being able to find a church that feels like home? Do I just sit it out? How do I deal with the longing for a community, one that accepts me for who I am, that pushes me, challenges me, is willing to challenge the status quo and love people the way God does, unconditionally?

As a black woman, how do I allow myself to be vulnerable in a culture that praises strength? How do I take care of myself in a culture that often criticizes selfishness and expects everyone else’s needs be met before mine?

How do I say I want a different life from my mother without any examples in front of me of what different looks like? How do I say I don’t want my identity to be wrapped up in being a wife & mother or living in someone else’s shadow? How do I show the world that as a woman who is young, gifted and black that I have something to say and much to offer the world?

As a first-generation college graduate, how do I reconcile the ‘do what you love the money will follow’ advice with the ‘girl, don’t leave that stable government job right now, the economy is a mess’ advice? How do I cope with student loan debt when I know I eventually want to own a house? Is the American Dream of a good job, a nice house with a picket fence going to be out of reach for me? 

And how in the world do I navigate a kid-free marriage (so far) when every other married couple around me seemingly has kids or had kids within the first year or two? People tell me to enjoy my marriage, enjoy life with no kids…but it feels awfully lonely when all your single friends without kids don’t understand what it’s like to be married, and all your married friends have kids. 

Fortunately, I’m in my twenties, so I have plenty of years ahead of me to find answers to these questions. In understanding who I am, I can find my purpose and hopefully help others to find theirs.

A self-proclaimed city kid hailing from the midwest, Deidre Gadsden can usually be found either on her computer typing away or with a notebook and a pen in her hand when she's not at work. She works for the government but dreams of soon escaping the plantation to be free to work for herself. Deidre lives in Cleveland, OH with her husband. You can follow her random, never-a-dull-moment commentary on twitter @ScoutsHonor21 and check out her blog at

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