Give Racism a Chance

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The Activist History Review

by Simon Tam

A few years ago, my band, the Slants, was invited to perform at the Oregon State Penitentiary. I never thought that this simple concert would become a direct parallel to my legal battle, one that would eventually lead me before the Supreme Court of the United States. To many, sending an all-Asian American dance rock band into a prison with a significant neo-Nazi population seemed like an invitation for disaster. However, I didn’t question the decision until we actually showed up and were handed bright-orange vests to wear over our clothes. One of my band members asked if it would be okay to take them off mid-concert, since our suits and vests could get quite warm.

“Sure,” the guard said, “but if an incident occurs, the orange vests let the sentry towers know who to avoid shooting.” Got it: keep the safety gear on.

We continued…

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