by Karen Topakian

The luck of the draw. The luck of the Irish. He’s a lucky guy. As luck would have it. Luck be a lady tonight.

Those are the first thoughts that come to mind when I hear the word luck. But last week I used the term to describe myself.

I had been invited to participate in a video interview about creating transparent grantmaking processes. About breaking down the barriers between grantseeker and grantmaker. About finding ways to bring donors and activist grantees closer together. Having spent 16 years of my life doing just this at the Agape Foundation, I easily found my voice despite my year’s absence from the work.

When the interviewer asked why I was so passionate about leveling this playing field, I answered that through no fault or credit on my part I was lucky to be born, white/Caucasian, middle class and well educated. In a society that valued all of those qualities. I felt a responsibility to work for justice because of the privileges that accompanied those valued qualities.

Lucky to be born white. But only because white skin is highly valued. Wrongly, I might add, but it is.

After the interview, I thought about my usage of the word lucky. Would I consider myself unlucky had I been born with a different skin color, belonging to a different ethnicity or race? Do I consider myself unlucky for being born a woman in a culture that values maleness over female? Straight over queer?

No, I am proud and happy to not be those other things, male and straight; despite the advantages those traits carry in the world. Never once did I ever want to be a man.

So why would I use the word lucky to describe my skin color? Because I live in a racist society that considers non-white skin to be less than? Because I too value my skin color and the advantages that it brings? I’m sure many more questions will arise inside me as I think about my usage of this one word but rest assured I will not describe my skin color again using the term luck.


  1. Carolyn says:

    Thanks for posting your oh, so honest reflection and analysis of “white privilege” and the ways we have it ingrained into our thought process and reactions… and also, thank you for your life-long dedication to changing the “way it is” or “has been”..

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