Kaitlyn's Story

 
Doris and Kaitlyn 07.jpg

Hello there!

Thank you for dropping by to learn more about who I am and what I stand for, here, at The Melanin Collective. After many months of collaborating, planning, and setting the wheels in motion, seeing this wonderful labor of love emerge into the world is one of the greatest things I have ever achieved.

Apart from reasons I’ll get into later, the driving force behind what I do is the need to craft a welcome space for all women of color. If you have ever experienced lack of belonging, lack of space, lack of community, you’ll know that is extends far beyond “fear of missing out.” It’s a feeling of loss, a feeling of existing without supportive pillars to keep you standing.

As a multiracial woman, I’ve gone through most of my life in this state of placelessness. And I’ve heard the gamut of “reasons”: I am a product of internalized racism because my parents intermarried; I am “Rachel Dolezal” because I choose to identify with my racial minority heritage; I am not really a person of color because my father is white; I am not really white because my phenotypes don’t match up with my last name; I am a mutt; I am a half-breed; I am not worthy of functioning in white spaces; I am not allowed to function in diverse spaces.

Utterly. Exhausting. And. Soul. Crushing.

But these are all just things I’ve recently allowed back into my consciousness, things that I stuffed way, way, way down into the bowels of my being. For the most part, I wandered through life simultaneously aware and unaware of my difference. Until 2015. That’s when things started to change for me.

I had a started a new career at a non-profit organization and it didn’t take long for problematic behavior from senior (white) leadership to emerge. At the time, all of the hostility wasn’t directed at me, but being new and eager to prove my worth, I kept my head down and just prayed that my work ethic would speak for itself. Oh, how wrong I was.

In a matter of time, I found myself at the brunt of tirades against my personality, lectures about simple mistakes, or zeroed in on staff meetings having to explain why things beyond my control (or pay-grade) were happening. At first I thought I was alone. It wasn’t until after-work happy hours that I realized that this deeply misogynistic, racist man was essentially taking turns harassing women of color in the office – something that had been going on for years and years!

This was the first time I had to confront racism for what it was, and accept its existence within my life. But it was also the first time I had a place, a community with the other women of color who had also suffered abuse. For the first time, ever, I felt at home with these women; they accepted my experience with no questions asked. They believed me.

Since I left that organization, things have looked up. I have a great job, a family I love, a dog I’m obsessed with. But more importantly: I found a home where I could be myself, not what other people projected onto me. It still shocks me sometimes that some this beautiful could grow from an experience so harmful. But it has! And also from it, my desire to ensure no woman of color ever felt without a home again. Wherever you are in life, whatever you have gone through, know that you have a home at The Melanin Collective.

- Kaitlyn