Supreme Court rules that government cannot refuse to register offensive names
In an unanimous decision on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law banning potentially offensive names from being trademarked.
The plaintiff, The Slants, an Asian American dance-rock band, first had its trademark rejected in 2010, because “slants” was perceived as an anti-Asian slur. Simon Tam, frontman of The Slants, pursued the case, and with the help of the ACLU, the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, fought their way through 7 years of court battles.
Other organizations, such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice, wrote in a neutral amicus brief that “socially progressive reclamation movements are not an excuse to open federal trademark registration to vile epithets and hateful marks.”
With the Supreme Court’s ruling, The Slants can freely trademark its name. Tam and his band celebrate the decision, calling it “a win for all marginalized groups.”
“It can’t be a win for free speech if some people benefit and others don’t,” said Tam in an interview with the New York Times. “The First Amendment protects speech even that we disagree with. You can’t say you want to shut down the conversation for other people, because that doesn’t advance progress. No one builds better communities by shutting people out.”
While the justices’ decision was unanimous, the celebration wasn’t. The Supreme Court’s decision opens the gates for any and all trademarks to use potentially offensive words, which gives other parties, such as the Washington Redskins, cause to celebrate.
Said Lisa S. Blatt, lawyer for the Redskins, the decision “resolves the Redskins’ longstanding dispute with the government.”
It’s not so clear for opponents of the ruling. In a statement, the national Change the Mascot campaign said, “This ruling does not change some very clear facts. Washington’s football team promotes, markets and profits from the use of a word that is not merely offensive -- it is a dictionary-defined racial slur.”
While the case could have ripple effects for other trademark and free speech cases in the Supreme Court, the court’s already been filling up its schedule for the rest of the year. As for the Slants? They’ve worried about the case for 7 years already. It’s time for them to make music.
Asian American women less likely to receive timely follow-up treatment after mammogram
Researchers at UC San Francisco found that Asian American women are less likely to receive prompt follow-up treatment after an abnormal mammogram, when compared to white women.
This can be extremely dangerous, as previous research shows that women who delay follow-up treatment by three months or more have lower survival rates than women who receive treatment sooner.
Potentially, says Kim Nguyen, an author of the study, the delay is because Asian American women can have varying socioeconomic statuses, less proficiency in English, and limited access to healthcare providers.
But to paint all Asian American women with a wide brush can be dangerous, especially as the term “Asian American” denotes a much broader set of people than most demographic groups.
“Asians are not a monolithic group,” says Nguyen. “There are significant differences that we are finding between Asian ethnic groups and health, and that’s why it’s very important to disaggregate the different ethnic groups when we’re studying health.”
UC San Francisco researchers were meticulous about differentiating groups to provide more granular data. But they experienced similar difficulties that other research groups, such as the Pew Research Center, experienced when attempting to divide “Asian American” into subsets.
For instance, researchers found it difficult to isolate certain health-related factors, such as immigration history or language barriers, which can prevent women from following up on time. And while they could attempt to use average salaries per AAPI subset, those factors did not always correlate with the success rate of quicker treatment times.
As the rates of breast cancer among Asian American women have continued to rise even as the rate among other women has remained stable, UC San Francisco’s more granular research comes at a critical point. And rather than being just a statistic, the research will affect everything down to how clinics approach serving their Asian American clients.
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Shaun Lau hosts the film and social issues podcast, “No, Totally!”. With cultural analysis from an AAPI tack, Lau fills a void in a crowded podcast arena. Support his podcast on Patreon and follow him on Twitter.
Jonny Sun, Asian American playwright with a Twitter that supercharged his career, released his first novel this week. Buy his novel, Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too: A Book, and follow him on Twitter.
Ming-Na Wen is already Dr. Chen, Agent May and, of course, Mulan. But soon she’ll also be first the AAPI Star Trek captain. Celebrate her continued success-- and Mulan’s 19th anniversary this week!-- on Facebook and Twitter.