- George ChenAsian Pacific American Bar Association
- Charanjist BrahmaSouth Asian Bar Association of Washington, D.C.
- Robert S. ChangeKorematsu Center
NAPABA, SABA, Korematsu Center: Stop Undermining the Work of Activists by Supporting Racist Government Actions
A few years ago, I filed a trademark application for my band, The Slants. The US Trademark Office rejected it, claiming it was disparaging towards Asians. I was baffled: I’m Asian. At first, we fought it by collecting testimonies and letters of support from Asian American organizations; having independent surveys done (they showed an overwhelming majority of Asian Americans supported us), getting linguistics studies, and more. Over the years, we have sent over 3,000 pages of evidence but the Trademark Office still chooses to use wiki-sources instead of the word of the actual Asian community.
However, the Trademark Office used internet sources such as urbandictionary.com, Asian joke websites, and dictionaries from the early 1940’s, and false articles about me/the band. Their process has been deplorable.
What's worse is that the South Asian Bar Association of Washington DC, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and Korematsu Center have written an amicus brief in support of the Trademark Office. They perpetuate the misinformation of the Trademark Office (such as the false claim that one of our shows was canceled due to outrage over the name). Those organizations not only downplay the effectiveness of reappropriation as an important method for creating social change, but argue that activists engaged in that type of work are actually hurting the communities we're trying to protect.
This approach is against the work of prominent Asian American pioneer activists and scholars like Helen Zia, Frank Wu, George Takei, Eric Liu, and Fred Korematsu, It also undermines the work of Slant Film Festival, Slant Magazine, Reappropriate, Angry Asian Man, and many others who use reappropriation to engage, education, and empower.
In fact, there have been almost 800 other applications for “slant” and not one was accused of racism - why our band? The Trademark Office told us it was because of our ethnicity. In other words, we were denied rights for being Asian, or in their view, “too Asian.” They claim that a caucasian band "made up" to look like Asians would be treated the same...however, we can't change our ethnicity. The underlying premise of course is that a caucasian band could register the trademark whereas we could not, as long as they didn't look like us.
People should not be denied rights because of their race.
Please sign this petition and show your support: racism should not be tolerated in any branch of the government. And that kind of racism should not be supported by groups claiming to represent marginalized communities in any way.
WHAT ACTIVISTS AND LEGAL EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
"In the past, the word slant is considered an outdated term to the band and other community members. The long-held racial slur against Asian Americans is now a source of empowerment and change." - Japanese American Citizens League
"This not disparage Asian American identity, it celebrates it" - Mari Watanabe, Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center/Oregon Commission of Asian Pacific Islander Affairs
"The Slants kick some serious ass" - Phil Yu, Anrgy Asian Man
“We are deeply concern about the government placing limits on people of color and other marginalized groups from expressing their viewpoints. This is a case where a racially charged term is being re-appropriated as a way to fight back against historical oppression. To limit the trademark benefits of such artistic and political expression would marginalize people struggling for tolerance and racial justice.” - Mat dos Santos, Legal Director, ACLU of Oregon
“This case calls for an end to a law that is being used to suppress minority voices. A favorable ruling for The Slants would encourage other minority voices to come forward with their own messages of tolerance and racial justice. In contrast, the ACLU of Oregon is concerned that a ruling upholding Section 2 of the Lanham Act would discourage minority speakers from spreading these important messages.” - David Rogers, Executive Director, ACLU of Oregon
For more information on our band, visit www.theslants.com
- Asian Pacific American Bar Association
- South Asian Bar Association of Washington, D.C.
- Korematsu Center
Robert S. Change
I just signed the following petition addressed to: United States Patent and Trademark Office, NAPABA, the South Asian Bar Association of DC, and Korematsu Center.
People should not be denied rights because of their race.
It is clear that not only did the USPTO distort the evidence in this case of The Slants, but the actual opinions of Asian Americans were ignored. The examining attorney had no right to copy and paste information from a previous case, especially when he knew that he was deliberately misusing information from dictionaries and Asian American activists who actually support The Slants.
Racism should not be tolerated in any branch of the government. It is disgraceful that NAPABA, the South Asian Bar Association of DC, and the Korematsu Center signed on to support this oppression of speech by validating a racist process. In doing so, they have undermined the work of beloved activists who have been empowering our communities for decades.
Please reconsider your position, look at the actual evidence being presented, and see how this law is suppressing the voices of marginalized communities for fear of one football team's racist mascot being protected. Our voices should not be the price. We can do better. We can develop culturally competent systems instead.
Simon Tam started this petition with a single signature, and now has 1,176 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.