Inevitably, when questioned about the ethics of their “inspiration”, fashionistas (and the more insensitive Halloween costumers) will bleat something about the “global village” or “political correctness gone mad”. Evidently they are so unable to piece together an outfit without resorting to cultural appropriation that even suggesting it might be hurtful to people of those cultures is too much to bear. How very dare we!
I actually got a letter back from the Color Run people:
I recently read your article “Dye-ing Culture: Color Runs™, White-Washing Holi Since 2012”.
I want to say I am truly sorry that you feel the The Color Run is defrauding the Holi festival. I can assure you, that is the last thing we would want. I feel that one of your main concerns is that you could not find on our Website where the idea for The Color Run originated.
The inspiration for The Color Run was derived from Disneyland’s World of Color (we use wet “paint” for part of our event), color festivals such as Holi, and day glow paint parties. This is a great question and answer that we should add to our FAQ list on our Website. I am not in charge of our Website, but I will look into having that added.
As for the part where you question our charity efforts, let me explain. As it states on our FAQ page, we are a for profit event company. However, we choose to give back. In every city we hold our event, we make a donation to a charity, usually a local charity involved in that community. There are three ways in which we help our charity partners. You can go to this link to find out more.
Please let me know if there is anything else I can clarify.
They do say that Holi, among other things like the Disney World World of Color and parties, was an inspiration for the Color Run. So the fact that they don’t mention it is adding insult to injury. As well, Holi is the only “inspiration” that uses colored powder.
It’s also important to remember that Holi is not just a Hindu celebration - Sikhs and Jains celebrate it too. So, yeah, Hindu’s don’t have a monopoly on colored powder. But the point of my article is not about having a monopoly, it’s that there is no mention of Holi on the Color Run website, in their adverts, or by people putting the events on. It’s shameless stealing. They can tell me all they like in private that Holi is an inspiration, but if they don’t do it in public place then that means nothing to me.
My problem is not the sexualization (so I’m sorry if that seemed like an afterthought - it was) it’s the profiting off of South Asian culture. They’re selling merchandise and tickets and only some of that money goes to charities. So they’re mostly just pocketing it themselves - that’s not fair. My culture is not meant to make money for someone. We don’t celebrate Holi so someone can make a ton of money on colored powder. It’s, inherently, a poor-man’s celebration and therefore making as much money as Color Run does is a bastardization.
Also, Color Run’s popularity has led to a whole rash of other companies (Run or Dye, etc.) doing the same thing. So they’re not an outlier in stealing our culture.
Not all the people who participate in Color Run are white, sure, but all the people they show on the posters promoting Color Run and similar events are. So it’s still pretty terrible.
You have to look at the whole picture. It may feel innocuous to partake in Color Run and throw some powder around, but the act of doing so is adding more steam to a giant money-making machine that has no reverence for the cultures it steals from. It is exploiting South Asian people and culture and no one should want to be a part of that.