Good News! After a grueling eight year legal battle that has consumed the band and attracted the attention of the nation’s highest court, all Asian American synthpop-punk group, The Slants, will be able to rock under their chosen moniker.
All eight current members of the court affirmed the right of the band to re-appropriate the term for their group and wholly struck down the limiting law as unconstitutional.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office determined they could not issue the band a trademark under their preferred name because it would be in violation of a 70 year old law. The office may not issue protection to names deemed deceptive or merely descriptive, though they also cannot issue trademarks that appear to be offensive or hurtful to a group or organization due to something called the “disparagement clause.” Under this pretense the government originally decided to withhold naming rights from the band, who’s name is admittedly offensive. This decision was upheld by every level of justice below the Supreme Court.
The band’s founder and front-man, Simon Tam, has pushed that the bands name is meant to “reclaim” the racial slur as a point of pride for the Asian community. The band’s lyrics do not shy away from objectively offensive terminology. In the song Sakura Sakura, Tam proudly proclaims, “We Sing for the Japanese, and the Chinese, and all the Dirty Knees.” The Slants aim to make the Asian american minority proud of their heritage and shared cultural history within the U.S..
Some have extrapolated that this decision might save the name of the Washington Redskins and other similarly unsavory titles. The disparagement clause that had previously held such names in contempt is, after this case, being thrown out.
The unanimous nature of the decision leaves a lot of room for hope. The first amendment, in a hour of crisis, might have a friend in the SCOTUS, the only power able to limit or interpret the constitution.
This decision affirms the the right and responsibility of each American to use language at their digression. The Supreme Court has chosen to keep Americans in control of their own tongues. In the opinion of the court, you have the right to determine how you will use all the words in your vocabulary, even the dirty ones.