Simon Tam Just Wanted to Play Dance Rock. Then the Supreme Court Got Involved.

Author and musician Simon Tam unexpectedly became a racial justice activist after starting the world’s only Asian-American dance rock band.

In 2009, Simon Tam began for a legal battle to trademark the name of his band, The Slants. 

Tam, an Asian-American musician and activist, had chosen that name as a way to reclaim a term that had once been used as a racial slur against Asians. 

However, the U.S. Patent Office denied Tam’s request for a trademark on the band’s name due to a law barring copyright on names and other terms the government deems offensive. Taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, Tam nearly lost everything in his fight to change U.S. copyright law. The case was won in a dramatic unanimous vote after more than a decade of legal battles. 

Click the player above to hear CultureShift’s Amanda LeClaire speak with him about how art and activism can change history.

Tam will speak at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn on Saturday, November 9.




  • Amanda LeClaire
    Amanda LeClaire is an award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. She’s a founding producer of WDET’s flagship news talk show Detroit Today, and a former host/reporter for Arizona Public Media. Amanda is also an artist, certified intuitive and energy healer, and professional tarot reader.