Remembering Vincent Chin

From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to Executive Order 9066, anti-Asian sentiment has been a prominent part of American history. Now we’re considered the “model minority.” How did this happen? During the civil rights movement, white Americans began to glorify Asian-Americans as hard working, law abiding citizens to diminish the African-American cry for equality. It was a way of saying, “They’re successful given the circumstances. Why aren’t you?” While Asian-Americans are one of the most successful groups of people in the U.S., there is still a lack of representation and hate crimes against us throughout the world today.

One of the most infamous anti-Asian hate crimes is the 1982 murder of Chinese-American Vincent Chin. During his bachelor party on June 23, 1982, two white men approached Chin and shouted “It’s because of you… we’re out of work!” This was a reference to the rapidly growing success of the Japanese auto-industry. Chin, who was only 27, had been bludgeoned by a baseball bat. Four days later, he passed away. On the day that he was to be married he was instead buried. Reportedly, his last words were “It’s not fair.” It wasn’t fair, and what was to come was even more unjust.

Chin’s murderers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, described their actions as merely a bar fight instead of a hate crime. The men were charged with second degree manslaughter, three years of probation, and $3000 in fines. For what seemed to be the first time, Asian-Americans everywhere gathered together to remember Vincent Chin. Asian countries and communities were still hurting from the recent wars in the Philippines, Korea, and Vietnam and the bombing campaigns taken on by the U.S. in Laos and Cambodia, but that could not bring a vast and diverse community together. It was the murder of a Chinese man being mistaken for a Japanese man.

On the day he was to be married he was instead buried.

Perhaps this was the first time that the “All Asians look the same” card was used in such a violent way, but Chin’s untimely and awful passing pulled a community together. Would it happen again? If so, who was next?

Vincent Chin’s death was the catalyst for Asian American activism.

Vincent Chin is a name that will live on in infamy in the many different Asian communities. The Asian American Journalists Association has even created a scholarship in Chin’s honor. “Remember Vincent Chin” was the rallying cry for the Asian communities throughout the U.S.A. However, today the name is not familiar with young Asian-American citizens. It took an interest in police brutality and a biased justice system for me to uncover the horrifying event that took place on June 23, 1982. Perhaps it was my parents protecting me from what has happened to Asian people less than 35 years ago, but Asian kids need to be educated of the racism that has ravaged our society for centuries.

Vincent Chin’s story will not go unforgotten, and generations to come need to learn from this. We must remember Vincent Chin.

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