Siding With The Slants

Racial slurs have been used over the years against many different groups and cultures of people around the world. At times these slurs have been used to label people and ultimately divide groups based on their appearance, where they come from, and mainly their status in the overall society. This kind of language over time is used in order for one group of people or culture to dominate another. But as time passes it seems some of those slurs which were being used against a group of people in order to disrespect and disassociate them from society, are now being used by that same group themselves as they make positive spins on the negative labels.

For example, in the 1990s the musician Tupac Shakur took the racial slur “NIGGA” which originated as a negative label for black people and redefined it as an acronym “Never Ignorant About Getting Goals Accomplished” (Kitchens, 2017). He wanted to give the word a positive spin but also send a message to young black men about reaching higher and striving for more than society says they can reach. Yet another instance of this occurring is with the hip hop group “NWA” (Niggas Wit Attitudes) who also took a more positive spin on the negative racial term (NPR, 2017). In this case, NWA was representing the low income, working class society of black people in the U.S. living in the more dangerous and violent parts of LA. In both of these cases, the Supreme Court ruled that these could be registered trademarks and would be distributed through branding worldwide. The Supreme Court states that certain trademarks/brands are capable of “freely flowing through commerce” (NPR, 2017) due to the fact that there is no confusion about what the brand is and what that brand means to a wider audience.

Today, an opinion editorial published by the Washington Post argues that a group who identifies themselves as Asian should have the Supreme Court’s permission to trademark their band name to “The Slants” (Washington Post, 2017). The group picked the name because it is offensive states the editorial, but that the group wants to flip the racial slur “upside down” and reappropriate it into a positive and empowering brand name. The Washington Post’s Editorial Board strategically utilizes clear logos, ethos, and pathos to successfully argue for the Supreme Court ruling which would allow slurs like “The Slants” to be trademarkable.

The editorial uses logos to clearly state the thesis in a straightforward logical way when stating, “businesses should not use racial slurs as trademarks” (Washington Post, 2017). This statement lets the audience know which side of the argument the writers stand on which then leads to the writers shedding some light on the court case while also giving the reader some background information on trademarks and slurs in general. The transition from the thesis to the information subsequently given is done very quickly, smoothly and directly. This kind of direct yet clear transition makes the information more manageable and understandable to the reader and it also makes the voice of the article show itself. For example the editorial transitions directly into stating what a trademark is and how it works but then it states, “But there is a catch…” This allows the reader to connect with the article and its writers in a more natural way.

As the article goes on the writers continue to demonstrate their straightforward logic but the reader begins to get a sense of the writer’s qualifications in discussing such a topic. The writers begin to demonstrate ethos in this piece as their reasonings for sticking to their side of the argument begins to be supported with the precise knowledge they already have about the court case and the justices who were present for the ruling. The writers don’t only demonstrate their knowledge and credibility about the case but they do it in such a way that lets the reader get a sense of the writer’s’ own personality. They do this by not only providing bits of background information but also including quick witted quotes from the justices while also making connections with statements found in the U.S. Constitution.

Lastly, the writers demonstrated pathos as they were capable of setting the scene of the court ruling on the case as well as clearly break down the situation logically and vividly making it so that the readers could understand the situation more clearly. Even after giving the background information on the case and providing quotes, the writers found it very necessary to clear up the thesis once again and give what they feel is a more direct solution. The writers suggest that the ruling was “too vague” and that there needs to be a more tangible meaning and understanding of the ruling so that all parties can be on the same page. This shows that the writers ended the article the same as they started it, very direct and straightforward which demonstrates the article as one that is well balanced and thought out.

This editorial by the Washington Post was very well argued seeing as it was clear, direct, and straightforward in each segment of the article. As the article went on it not only demonstrated how intelligent and credible the writers were but also how they could use that information to appeal to and connect with the readers. The writers made this work also because the information they used was not only from the court case with justices being quoted but from the U.S. constitution which made the statements that much more convincing. The main issue the writers had with the case was that the ruling was very vague, but the other issue is the fact that they don’t believe the Supreme Court should have the only power to register a trademark. As the article ended the writers continued to be very direct and straightforward leaving the reader with a solution to the argument closing the article the same as they started it.

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