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We Were Denied Rights for Being "Too Asian"

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Published on Oct 18, 2013

The petition is now closed but we will be opening it up again soon. Please sign up on the email list to get details: http://theslants.fanbridge.com

More information about the case:

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.

However, the Trademark Office defended their decision. They used internet sources such as urbandictionary.com, Asian joke websites, and several dictionaries from the early 1940's.

So, we dug deeper. Rather than focusing on their accusation of racism, we asked why they had a problem with us to begin with. Afterall, "slant" can mean any number of things and the racial connotations are obscure at best anyway. In fact, there have been almost 800 other applications for "slant" and not one was accused of racism - why our band? They told us it was because of our ethnicity. In other words, we were denied rights for being Asian, or in their view, "too Asian."

However, let's push all the arguments about re-appropriation or intentions aside and focus on the real issue: people should not be denied rights because of their race.

As anti-racist essayist Tim Wise notes, institutionalized racism is the "policies, practices and procedures-both formal and informal-in which some persons typically have more or less opportunity than others...because of their respective racial identities. [It] involves denying persons opportunities...on the basis of race, to which those individuals are otherwise entitled."

The Trademark Office admitted that the term "slant" is not an inherently offensive one; the reason why they chose to associate me with a racial slur was because "it is uncontested that applicant is a founding member of a band...composed of members of Asian descent...thus, the association."

Their reasoning had nothing to do with our intentions or whether Asian Americans are actually disparaged, only my ethnicity. This is why "The Slants" is something that anyone can trademark, anyone except Asian Americans. This is also why you see whites trademarking terms like "chink," "jap," and "oriental" without even being questioned. Asians need not apply, whites only.

While they state they we can still use the name, even without a trademark, why should we have to settle for something less simply because they think this word isn't appropriate for the Asian community to use? That's like telling someone, "you can still ride the bus, you just can't ride in the front." We should not have our freedom of speech abridged or violated, especially on the basis of race.

For more information on our band, visit www.theslants.com

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