Statement on Recent SCOTUS Ruling

Posted by Simon Tam Category: News

After an excruciating legal battle that has spanned nearly eight years, we’re beyond humbled and thrilled to have won this case at the Supreme Court. This journey has always been much bigger than our band: it’s been about the rights of all marginalized communities to determine what’s best for ourselves. During the fight, we found the Trademark Office justifying the denial of rights to people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, and political views, simply because they disagreed with the message of these groups. To that end, they knowingly used false and misleading information, supported by questionable sources such as UrbanDictionary.com, while placing undue burdens on vulnerable communities and small business owners by forcing them into a lengthy, expensive, and biased appeals process. The Supreme Court has vindicated First Amendment rights not only for our The Slants, but all Americans who are fighting against paternal government policies that ultimately lead to viewpoint discrimination.

For too long, people of color and the LGBTQ community have been prime targets under Section 2(a) of the Lanham Act, simply because we believe in the deliberate disarmament of toxic language and symbols. We’ve had to endure the Trademark Office working in isolation of our groups to navigate the troubled waters of identity politics and shifting language and culture, without any sense of cultural competency, consistency in enforcement of rules, and only giving the benefit of doubt to the most privileged members of society. Now, Americans can decide who should prevail in the marketplace of ideas rather than a lone examining attorney. Oppressed groups will no longer have their identities shaped the sensibilities of dominant ones.

When I started this band, it was about creating a bold portrayal of Asian American culture. The establishment of an Asian American band was a political act in of itself, even though we never considered ourselves as a political group. However, as we continued writing music about our experiences, we realized that activism would be integrated into our art as well. I’m proud our band members have helped raise over $1 million for issues affecting Asian Americans, that we’ve worked with dozens of social justice organizations, and that we could humanize important issues around identity and speech in new and nuanced ways. So we became part art and part activism.

We dedicated our newest release, “The Band Who Must Be Named,” as an open letter to the United States Patent and Trademark Office to articulate these values. Music is the best way we know how to drive social change: it overcomes social barriers in a way that mob-mentality and fear-based political rhetoric never can. Language and culture are powerful forms of expression and we are elated to know that the Supreme Court of the United States agree. Irony, wit, satire, parody…these are essential for democracy to thrive, these are weapons that neuter malice.

We are filled with appreciation for the numerous groups who have helped us along the way. Organizations from all sides of the political made for unlikely allies in order to address the false dichotomy between free speech and civil liberties. We know that to truly protect the most marginalized members of society, we absolutely must protect and expand the First Amendment. Of course, we could not have any of this without the leadership of our legal team: Ron Coleman, Joel MacMull, and John Connell at Archer Law.

There will always be villainous characters in a free society but we cannot be so blinded in our desire to punish them that we are willing to bear the cost of that cost on the backs of the marginalized.

As we state in our song, From the Heart:

Sorry if our notes are too sharp
Sorry if our voice is too raw
Don’t make the pen a weapon
And censor our intelligence
Until our thoughts mean nothing at all

Sorry if you take offense
You made up rules and played pretend
We know you fear change
It’s something so strange
But nothing’s gonna’ get in our way

There’s no room
For your backward feelings
And your backyard dealings
We’re never gonna settle
We’re never gonna settle

No, we won’t remain silent
Know it’s our defining moment
We sing from the heart
We sing from the heart

No, we won’t be complacent
know it’s a rock n roll nation
We sing from the heart
We sing from the heart

Sorry if we try too hard
To take some power back for ours
The language of oppression
Will lose to education
Until the words can’t hurt us again

So sorry if you take offense
But silence will not make amends
The system’s all wrong
And it won’t be long
Before the kids are singing our song

There’s no room
For your backward feelings
And your backyard dealings

We’re never gonna settle
We’re never gonna settle
No, we won’t remain silent

Know it’s our defining moment
We sing from the heart
We sing from the heart

No, we won’t be complacent
know it’s a rock n roll nation
We sing from the heart
We sing from the heart

Thank you.

20 thoughts on “Statement on Recent SCOTUS Ruling

    1. Where can I buy your albums Slant?? I do not just want a 99 cent tune offered on Amazon. Your statement on the SCOTUS ruling was so very beautiful! I am a one of those red headed, freckled and marginalized human beings (red hair and freckles were never very popular) and would love to start a band called “Redheaded and Freckled.” (Unfortunately, I think I am to old for that at age 67, -though I am still redheaded and freckled.) I am so passionate about music and how it can change our brains, our thoughts so very profoundly!
      My ancestors were travelers from Europe in the 1600’s seeking freedom (also marginalized because they did not follow the Europen rule) and helped to settle this country after the Mayflower. I could digress about Native Americans and what happened to them, Blacks and what happened to them, Asians and what happened to them, and most touching being Asians being enturned in Puyllap, Wa as a concentration camp (so the speak) which is the site of the famous now Washington State fair where I remind folks who do not know that it was a Japanese concentration camp during WWII. (Suggestion, you might think of having your PR person contact the fair, you would have zillions of fans appearing as you are a Portland Band so close to us with many people like me knowing what it all means to have you there!)

      All cultures are not without sin, OK off my soap box! Anyway I am so proud of you, you are a continuing lesson for all of us, like my ancestors and you, never give up, never quit. Belay on my friends, Belay on!~ “Belay on” means keep climbing!

  1. Congrats. I grew up with friends from multiple cultures in Lemon Grove, California. The Nakanos, Tahanashi, Aranda, others.

  2. I’m only glad you won because it helps the Redskins. I find it hypocritical that you want the right to trademark your band what you want, but you want to stop the Redskins from trademarking their name. If you bothered to even look up the history of the name you’d learn that it was NATIVE AMERICANS who came up with the name and it referred to the war paint they used and not the color of their skin. I don’t see you complaining about “Fighting Irish”(i.e. stereotype of Irish being belligerent drunks) as being offensive to Irishman. I don’t see you complaining about the name “Oklahoma” which means “Red People”. Free speech applies to EVERYONE.

    1. We don’t say anything about the football team not being able to register their trademark. While we disagree with their use of the name, we understand that free speech isn’t only reserved for people who we agree with.

  3. Congratulations on your victory in the Supreme Court. Your challenge was a successful one and your name will be memorialized in American legal history. What I find intriguing is that the basis for your name was a non-commercial one, which differs from most trademark cases. You used the name not only as a vehicle for branding yourselves, but to make a political statement. The high court did not dwell on this point, since the unanimous opinion found the section of the trademark law so constitutionally defective, though I personally wish it had. I also wish the court spoke with a more unified opinion (there were three related opinions resulting in a unanimous opinion).

    I teach law and have written about the case in the past and presently writing a law review article on it. I would like to speak to Simon if possible because I would like to know more about the political goals and how “Slants” was chosen and what he thinks is the future of the use of heretofore disparaging terms used as empowerment by artists in the wake of the ruling

    1. Hi,

      Our use is a mix of both expression, political statement, and use in commerce – though they didn’t visit that, I suspect they wanted to speak to larger constitutional issues and put to rest other cases. If you’d like to contact me, feel free to drop an email to theslants@www.theslants.com -Simon

  4. Not everybody knows what your supreme court case was about and your comments above are quite vague and don’t explain why you brought a lawsuit. You should have the link front and center on your home page, or at least embedded into your comment above. Thanks. And congrats.

  5. Congratulations and thank you for fighting all the way. It was a long fight but it was worth it. Go Slants! You rock!

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