Paper Justice

This week, I had the incredible honor of speaking on a panel with Stephen Baird, the original attorney who fought with Suzan Harjo to cancel the trademark registrations of the Washington football team, and Amanda Blackhorse, who bravely continued that effort. There’s no question that their efforts helped to highlight the indignity that Native Americans have had to endure through pro sports using their identities as caricatures and mascots. Both were exceedingly kind, intelligent, and compassionate.

At the end of the session, an attendee asked a question to the attorneys: “How could we have laws where both Amanda and Simon win?” Unfortunately, neither Amanda or I were able to answer for ourselves – like our respective cases, it was fielded by sincere representatives, both who lived in worlds outside of our communities.

I think I would have simply answer as such: This kind of justice won’t happen in law until we confront the notion that we fundamentally have a government that was founded on colonialism and racism. We can’t “win” until we address racist policies and institutionalized discrimination. Racial slurs only exist in the context of racism – outside of that, they’re just words. If people want both Amanda and I to win, we first have to address a system that was designed to prevent people like us from wining to begin with.

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Perhaps one day, we’ll truly have liberty to express words of our respective communities ourselves. Until then, we’ll continue to press on for a more just and equitable world.

When I returned home from INTA, I found the paper registration for THE SLANTS trademark in the mail (they never sent it so I had to pay for a special order). Kind of funny.

This piece of paper took longer to receive than my undergrad + MBA programs put together…and if it wasn’t for pro bono help, would have cost about 30 times as much. Finally, finally… the long battle is officially over with some kind of paper recognition. 9 years after my friend Spencer first suggested that I register my trademark, the certificate was finally there on my dining table. It felt a bit anti-climatic. Like the law, effort, and the band name, this was largely symbolic.

Justice takes a while, especially on paper.

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