Self-described as a “Chinatown Rock” band — think edgy synth pop meets new wave — The Slants are easily one of the most successful Asian-American bands in the world. Besides rocking out on stage and playing with the likes of Mindless Self Indulgence and Shounen Knife, they also do awesome things such as lead workshops across the country on race and diversity to empower young audiences.
You would think a cool band like that would have no problem trademarking their name. But the U.S. denied their trademark for being “TOO ASIAN.”
When The Slants tried to apply to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to trademark their name, their application was rejected on the grounds of it being “disparaging to Asians.”
Interestingly enough, nearly 800 applicants were approved for the word “slant” but none of them were accused of racism except for The Slants. Simon Tam, the band’s founder and bassist, writes on Change.org, “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.’“
Fact: Overwhelmingly, Asian-Americans support The Slants.
In a short interview for this article, Simon told me, “We’ve had many Asian Americans share their personal stories with us. For example, when playing at a Hiroshima remembrance event, we had internment camp survivors dancing to our music and saying our work made them proud. We’ve also had suicidal youth contact us who said that we helped save their lives because we were able to “own” and positively re-appropriate a stereotype about them. It’s been one of the most incredible things I’ve ever experienced and it all started from our band’s “slant” on Asian American music.”
Fact: The Slants have never received a single official complaint.
Out of nearly 600 shows across the world, with dozens of Asian-American festivals and Asian media coverage, The Slants have only encountered a grand total of TWO individuals who didn’t care for the name. “They believe that reappropriation doesn’t work and that we are perpetuating stereotypes about Asian-Americans,” Simon explains. “Other than a handful of their posts on message boards, we’ve never received a single complaint — not from any Asian media source, promoter, or event. I suppose trolls on the internet do what they do though, we don’t let that get in our way.”
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