Times are different. We have come a long way from internment camps and shanty town cities. At least that is what progressive thinkers would like to imagine. This is a fresh generation, a renewed conscious collective where cultures, once separated by color, nationality, or religion, become indefinitely entangled and variegated. This truth is something “The Slants” are putting out with full force; they want you to question their name, they want to stop racism by stopping the power of certain words and previous mentalities. Portland, Oregon-based Asian-American rock band, dubbed “Chinatown dance-rock,” The Slants have been denied their name and now they are taking it to federal court. The Slants, comprised of Simon Young (bass), Tyler Chen (drums), Will Moore (lead guitar), Thai Dao (guitar/keys), and Ken Shima (vocals), has been rejected twice by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and will not take no for an answer.
The founder of the band Simon Tam (Simon Young) applied for the trademark initially in 2010 but had been rejected by the trademark office due to the fact that the name was dubbed as inherently racist. Tam, who initially wanted to reclaim the stereotype, argued that the Asian- American community would not be upset by such a band name and it is not a name that would automatically register as offensive ( All types of words are brought back into use to take away the past connotations of the word and bring it back to something noble and good. Isn’t the trademark office helping in the continuation of the name being a slur when it doesn’t need to be and is not recognized as such by the asian americans using it?). Needless to say the same examiner read the document and rejected it again.
A quote from Simon Tam states: “I consider the name a point of cultural pride,” he continues. “One of the first things people say is that we have slanted eyes. I thought, ‘What a great way to reclaim that stereotype and take ownership of it,’ and, in doing so, take away the power from those who try to use it as a term of hate. Our band uses our name to refer to our perspectives and experiences in life as people of color. It’s our “slant,” if you will – and we choose to empower others that way.”
Simon Tam is a public speaker; Tam has conducted three TED Talks on issues of racism, the strength and influence of language, as well as the trademark problems “The Slants” are currently facing.
“Give Racism a Chance: Simon Tam at TEDxSpokane” (with specific references to Ferguson, black-white relations, and The Slants’ trademark):
“A new slant on racism: Simon Tam at TEDxUofW” (dealing with systematic racism):
As nothing is truly free in this world (even knowledge has a price!) this pursuit for justice and truth is costing a pretty penny. Simon Tam has spent more than $10,000 in legal fees and it is growing despite the fact the band’s lawyers are arguing the case pro bono; now with this new appeal it will be getting even more expensive. But that is where awesome samaritans such as yourself come in. Tam has set up a GoFundMe account to help with the court fees.
Simon was told he could keep the name but not have the trademark, if he dropped the case. Of course our man Tam isn’t going to go away that easy. Tam says, “To me that’s like saying you can still ride the bus, you’ve just got to sit in the back. You can have the name, but have fewer rights than anyone else. That only made me want to fight even harder.” A decision from the Federal Court should arrive by April, depending on the outcome, the case may advance to the Supreme Court and if that be the case I hope it does.
Get it Simon!
Article by: Marissa Mireles