The Right to Discriminate Against Yourself

Extended - June 20, 2017 - John Harris 06/20/2017 Views: 23,531

Ronny Chieng finds out why Asian-American musicians went to the Supreme Court to fight for their right to use the racially insensitive band name The Slants. (5:49)

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Let's talkabout the Supreme Court,

the highest court in the land,especially now

that Ruth Bader Ginsburg startedvaping.

Don't judge. We all dealwith Trump in our own way.

This week, the Court ruled

on a coupleof interesting cases.

One decision said states cannotcompletely ban sex offenders

from using social media sites

like Facebook, Twitterand LinkedIn.

Now, I get the Facebookand Twitter part of it,

but LinkedIn, I'm confused by.

Like, a pedophileis using LinkedIn?

Is that a thing they do?

"Hey, kids,not only do I have candy,

but I'm also highly proficientin Excel. Yeah."

And the Court also ruled

on a casewith major implications

for everyone's favoriteoffensive football team.

Rememberhow the Washington Redskins

lost their trademark protectionbecause the team's name

was deemed to be too offensiveto Native Americans?

Well, this term,the Supreme Court

will take up a similar case

involving an Asian Americanrock band from Oregon

called The Slants.

Well, they, too,were denied a trademark

because the U.S. Patentand Trademark Office

thought the namewas racially disparaging.

The outcome of that casewill likely determine

if the Redskins will loseits trademark for good.

Oh, poor Washington Redskins.

Having the U.S. governmentstrip away your identity?

Who could possibly knowwhat that feels like?


Now, we know why the Redskinswanted to win this case--

so they wouldn'thave to order new hats--

but why was an all-Asian band

so determinedto be called The Slants

that they took itto the Supreme Court?

And how did it work outfor them?

Well, we sent Ronny Chiengto find out.

CHIENG: Most rock bands get in trouble with the law

for trashing hotel rooms, illegal drugs,

or getting their (bleep) sucked in public.

But most rock bands aren't The Slants.

NEWSWOMAN: Simon Tam is the leader

of an Asian American rock band called The Slants.

They wanted to trademark their band's name,

but their request was denied.

CHIENG: You heard that right.

They're in a legal battle over a name.

How'd you guys get startedwith the name?

I asked a bunch of friends,non-Asians,

what they thoughtall Asians had in common,

and they immediately saidslanted eyes.

And that's when I thought,"You know, The Slants."

That could bea really interesting band name

because it could haveall these different meanings.

But does anyoneactually think of it

as any other meaningother than the obvious?

Well, we do.

I intended to have peopleto kind of start,

like, a nuanced discussionabout racial identity.

CHIENG: Yeah, sure. Okay.

Well, the Patent Trademark Office,

also known as the PTO,

didn't see it that way.

The court said that we weretoo Asian to use the name.

They said anyonecan register The Slants

as long as they're not Asian.

-But you are.-We are Asian.

Okay, so you're sayingthat if you were white,

-you could register The Slants?-Yes.

They said our raceprovides the context

for being a racial slur.

So by protecting you guysagainst racial discrimination,

they've actually discriminatedagainst you racially.


CHIENG: How the hell does that make any sense?

NEWSMAN: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

has turned them down,

saying the name is disparaging to Asians,

especially when backed by Asian imagery.

CHIENG: This Asian rock band

is all about breakingracial stereotypes,

and some people...Wait. Who are you looking at?

What are you doing? Yo!Over here. Yo! Yo!

Are you...Can you not tell us apart?

The (bleep)?

CHIENG: After I fired the crew and got a new one,

I needed to understand why this band

was exhausting themselves over a name.

Look, I went to law school.

Who among ushasn't gone to law school?

I left law school

so I wouldn't have to dealwith this stuff.

Why are you fighting so hard

for the rightto be racially abused?

You can get it for freeon Twitter.

Well, for us,it's about principle.

It's really important to fightfor the rights of our people.

I mean, The Slants aren'teven that offensive a name.

Like, if you wantto make a statement,

why don't you go all the way?

You know, like, call yourselvesthe Chink and Chong Sing-Alongs.

Eat Doggy Dogg.

Gook Face Killah.

Well, you know, for us,we wanted to...

That's cool, but I'm not donewith my list yet.

Pork Bun N' Roses.

Vanilla Rice.

Wok and Rollers.


Just go all out.

Kind of fixed on The Slants.

CHIENG: "Fixed"? More like obsessed.

Simon's been fightingthis trademark battle

for over eight years,

and it went to the Supreme Court.

Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

called (bleep) on the PTO.

GINSBURG: Everyone knows that The Slants is using this term,

not at all to disparage, but simply to describe.

CHIENG: Finally, after almost a decade,

their stubbornness paid off.

MAN: Our Supreme Court

has just taken oneof the strongest stands

ever on the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court saying that,no, this is part of free speech.

Who knew that The Slants were sopopular with the Supreme Court?

CHIENG: Yeah, the Slants can now officially be racist

toward themselves.

And it was time to celebrate the all-new way

these Asian rock stars knew how.

AUDIENCE (chanting):Slants! Slants! Slants!

Because of the great news, I wasn't even angry

when white people started chanting "The Slants."

What's up, guys?We are The Slants!

(rock intro begins)

CHIENG: You might be asking,"Who cares about what this band

can or can't call themselves?"

But that's the beauty of creativity.

When you allow some passionate Asian-American artists

to express themselves authentically,

you never know what or who it might inspire.

♪ Yo, (bleep) PTO,(bleep) the PTO ♪

♪ They think they're legit,but they don't know ♪

♪ (bleep) the PTO,(bleep) the PTO. ♪

-(applause and cheering)-In case you didn't know,

"PTO" stands for U.S. Patentand Trademark Office.

(bleep) the system

-from within,-(applause and cheering)

using the judicialappeals process.

Gook Face Killah out!

Trademark pending.


Single dropping soon.

Thank you, Ronny.Ronny Chieng, everyone.

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