32 years ago, Chinese American Vincent Chin was celebrating his bachelor party in Detroit on June 19, 1982. That’s when he got into a fight and was fatally beaten by Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz with a baseball bat. The two men — both White — hurled racial slurs like “jap” and “chink” at Chin, blaming him for the loss of Detroit auto industry jobs to overseas Japanese manufacturers.
Vincent Chin died in hospital on June 23rd, 1982, four days before he was scheduled to marry his fiancee.
Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz received a bare slap on the wrist for the crime. The cost for the murder of an Asian American man: 3 years of probation and $3000 in court fees.
Vincent Chin’s case was a watershed moment for the Asian American community. Chin’s death terrified because it was proof that racism swept all of us with the same brush, and that we could no longer hide behind the walls of ethnic factionalism. The Vincent Chin tragedy was about all of us.
Chin’s murder became one of the first inciting incidents that would politically unite our community across generational, geographic and ethnic divide to rally against this profound miscarriage of justice. A few years back, I wrote about how I grew up in a world without Vincent Chin, and how his case profoundly impacted the Asian American politics of today.
Yet, there are still those who have forgotten about Vincent Chin. Earlier this year, a columnist for the Detroit News published an op-ed that defended Nitz and Ebens, and blamed Chin for his own death by racial hate crime. Although the Asian American community generated a powerful series of writing refuting the Detroit writer’s revisionist history of the Chin case (including this piece by Frank Wu), the fact that a writer would write such a fallacious article thinking it would not impact an entire community of Asian Americans is proof that we cannot let Vincent Chin’s death be forgotten.
We must remind the world that Vincent Chin was us, and we are him.
So, I’m asking all of you to help me remember Vincent Chin this upcoming weekend — June 20-23rd — which commemorates the four days that Chin spent fighting for his life in hospital 32 years ago after being the victim of a racist hate crime. Here’s what you can do:
- Post a selfie tagged #IAmVincentChin to Twitter. Writings and photos will be curated at the #IAmVincentChin Tumblr, so submit your stuff there too!
- Post tweets throughout the weekend remembering the Vincent Chin tragedy, and how it has impacted you.
- Tag all your thoughts with #IAmVincentChin. Trend it.
- Share this post and the #IAmVincentChin Tumblr with your friends, widely and often.
Let’s see if we can create a Twitter Storm of love and remembrance for Vincent Chin this weekend.
Because #IAmVincentChin, and you are too.