[TW: medical abuse]I was born with a Blue Spot. Here is the story of what it is, and how a white man stole it.
The only time I ever met me father was an hour after I was born. He took one look at me and said, “this is my child.” When my mother and her family wondered how he was so certain, he showed them my Blue Spot. All of his family had been born with Blue Spots; some of my mother’s family knew of them because of Roma heritage, but I only child in at least a generation who’d been born with one.
Also, my Spot was permanent like my father’s. When I turned 12 and the Spot stayed, my mom told me the full story of my heritage and who my father had been, what he was like, and how they had met.
In my 20’s I went to a white dermatologist for an unrelated reason, and he completely flipped out over my Spot. He was utterly convinced it was some kind of skin cancer. I explained to him over and over what it was and why it was there; I’d seen a Chinese dermatologist in my childhood and an Indian dermatologist in my teens; none of them had even bothered to mention the spot other than to comment that it was there, and permanent (unlike some congenital Blue Spots that fade away with age.)
This white guy threatened and browbeat me until i finally agreed to let him biopsy it. I made him promise that he wouldn’t take it, I kept telling him that I liked my Spot, it was important to me. He really was saying to me that if I didn’t let him do this I would die. He promised that the biopsy would only take a tiny piece of skin, and it wouldn’t make any difference in its appearance.
When I got home and took the bandage off, I saw two stitches holding together the wound where my Blue Spot had been.
I cried and wouldn’t get out of bed for days.
As time passed, i noticed the skin around the scar was showing blue where the redness was fading. As more time passed, the blue color spread out more and now I have an irregular scar on my lower back that is surrounded by a blue color.
All I have of my father is one blurry photo and my scarred Blue Spot.
It is a reminder to me that white people will always try to steal my heritage and who I am.
It is a reminder that no matter how hard they try, they can never take it away from me.
A Slanted view (my fight with the USPTO for API rights)
This is reposted from my original article at yomyomf.com:
I play bass in what’s often known as the first and only all-Asian American dance rock band in the world. We perform at many of the largest Asian cultural festivals in North America. We’ve been featured in and on over 1,500 radio stations, websites, magazines, and tv shows talking about the Asian American experience. As I mention in my bio above, my band members and I often facilitate workshops on cultural diversity, racism, and stereotypes about Asian and Asian American culture. In fact, when you look up information on the band, it’s hard to find anything that doesn’t associate us with Asian American culture, which is why when the U.S Trademark and Patent Office said that our band was disparaging to persons of Asian descent, I was rather shocked.
Let me elaborate.
The name that I and my cohort of pan-Asian Americans chose for the band is The Slants. We deliberately chose this outdated, generational term to inject pride into Asian American culture. Because of the broad support that we’ve had from APA’s – not only from media and blogs, but lifelong activists who are aware of the sensitivities of the community at large, we never expected the USPTO to have an issue when we filed for a trademark on the band’s name.
The Trademark Office doesn’t allow terms that are deemed to be disparaging to be approved. In order for them to reject an application for a trademark on these grounds, they have to show that a substantial composite of the referenced group to be offended by the word.
When we responded to the Trademark Office with evidence of support from the community, we included dozens of examples of Asian Pacific American media supporting our band. Well known lifelong APA activists wrote letters of support for our use of the name. We also showed other examples of Asian Americans using the term “Slant” in a positive manner, such as major API Film Festival “Slant”and Chicago-based TV show “The Slant.”
So what kind of evidence did they bring to demonstrate the collected outrage of APA’s who are offended by our name?
First, they cited UrbanDictionary.com. Then, they found an anonymous post on a message board from someone who said they didn’t like our name. After that, they put in photographs of Miley Cyrus making a slant-eye gesture. They sent this to us along with a rejection letter that said the vast support we demonstrated from the APA community was “laudable” but not influential.
This is what angers me the most: the US Trademark Office decided that anonymous wiki sources mattered more than the voice of Asian Americans. Why does a government agency that has no connection with APA’s have the right to dictate what is appropriate for our community? Why don’t we have the right to decide for ourselves?
Our plight reminds me of another case. You might know of the NFL team, The Redskins. The litigation over their name has been going on since 1992 except in that case, the Trademark Office continues to defend their name despite formal objections, legal challenges, and law suits from Native Americans who find the term “Redskins” to be an offensive racial slur. Again, a government agency that has no connection with the referenced community is making decisions as to what is appropriate or offensive for them. In our case, they deny our trademark in the absence of any valid complaints from Asian Americans. With Native Americans, they continue to defend “Redskins” even in the face of formal objections.
The role of government shouldn’t include deciding what a group can define themselves as. That right should belong to the community itself. While I would love to win the trademark to protect my band’s name – and frankly, to end the process because it’s been a long and expensive one – this case is bigger than The Slants. This will help determine what other minority groups are going to do in the future.
So let me wrap up by saying to the Asian American community: Thank you for your support over the years. Our love for spreading API culture drives us to continue what we do. If you would be so kind to donate a few minutes of your time and join us in this fight, please contact me: email@example.com (or tumblr @aslantedview)
And To the Trademark Office: Thank you for being offended on my behalf. You might not know this, but API’s have been a part of U.S history since 1750, when Filipinos began settling here. We have helped built this country, from the railroads to shaping civil rights laws for all citizens. And believe it or not, we’re grown up enough now to decide what’s right for ourselves. The broad, unified support of the Asian American community should be enough to trump that of Urban Dictionary.com. Our voice matters, you should listen.
But then again, my view is a little “slanted”.