Cultural Awareness Begins with Conservation

In recent years, “Color Runs” have become a major fad in the United States, and for obvious reasons. The runs are uncompetitive, the participants are doused in gorgeous shades of colorful powder and the events often raise a ton of money for charities. While all of this sounds great in theory, Color Runs are a form of cultural appropriation, and should be replaced with a non-offensive alternative.

Several students expressed concern about this exact issue when Seattle University Dance Marathon announced that their 2015 Color Run would be held in November.

The colorful powder used in Color Runs is Holi paint, and is used in the Hindu spring festival called Holi (also referred to as the “festival of colors” or the “festival of love”). The religious festival is primarily observed in India, Nepal and other parts of the world with large populations of Hindus. One tradition of the festival is to throw the powder until it covers everyone in attendance.

For Americans who are unaffiliated with Hinduism to adopt this cultural tradition as our own is completely unacceptable, especially because Holi isn’t just a cultural celebration—it’s a religious one.

Since hearing from students that the Color Run would be an appropriation of Hindu culture, Dance Marathon has made a couple of changes. Instead of throwing the paint powder, the Miracle Children—kids who are currently or have been patients of Seattle Children’s Hospital—at the event will shower the participants with regular paint at each checkpoint of the run. The Holi paint, which was already purchased, will be donated to a local organization for cultural use.

It’s refreshing to see an issue like this resolved so quickly and effectively, and I’m proud of our student body for continuously striving to become more culturally sensitive. It’s undeniably difficult to always be aware of who we’re offending with certain actions and why, but this instance proves that sometimes a simple conversation can stop the problem before it starts.

–Jenna Ramsey, News Editor