This year marks 40 years following the death of Vincent Chin, whose brutal hate crime killing in Detroit, Michigan in June 1982 sparked a nation-wide movement that galvanized the Asian American community. To mark the occasion, American Citizens for Justice (ACJ) released a 64-page Legacy Guide that they hope can be used by middle- and high-school educators to teach about Chin’s impact on Asian American history and contemporary politics.
Importantly, the Guide is published in partnership with the Vincent and Lily Chin Estate: Helen Zia, a journalist who raised early awareness about Chin’s murder and who serves as executor of the Vincent and Lily Chin estate is a co-founder of ACJ, which created the Guide. Last year, a podcast about the Vincent Chin case was pulled after it was revealed that Zia had never been contacted by the podcast’s producers.
“The Vincent Chin Legacy Guide is ultimately a call to action,” Zia said in the press release announcing the Guide’s publication. Zia played a pivotal role as an organizer in the movement seeking justice for Chin’s family, and she has since fought tirelessly to preserve the history of that work.
“This is not merely about what happened then. It is a rallying cry about what has to happen now and going forward. Our vision is that students, teachers, really all Americans, not only learn about Vincent Chin and the Asian American civil rights movement, but that they feel compelled now as we did then: to join together, build solidarity with other communities, and act to prevent history from ever repeating itself.”
The Legacy Guide, which ACJ is distributing as a pdf to those who request it, provides a detailed overview of the Chin case and the organizing around seeking justice for him and his family, and it contextualizes his killing against the backdrop of anti-Asian racism of the early 1980’s as well as to contemporary anti-Asian racial violence.
“The guide is meant to be a discussion guide and teaching tool,” Zia said. “It is also a tribute to the individuals and communities who came together for justice for Vincent Chin and who are standing up today so that all communities may live without fear of violence.”
Several writers have also published pieces this week reflecting on the legacy of Vincent Chin, and his impact on the contemporary Asian American Movement. Zia also appeared recently on NPR to discuss the relevance of Vincent Chin to today.
“The Vincent Chin case matters today because it really stands out as a landmark, not only for Asian Americans,” said Zia in that interview. “It stands out as a landmark in American history. It’s a time when a people in America, who were treated as though they were aliens – those people stood up and said, this is wrong. And not only that – we are a part of the American democracy, and we deserve to be treated as full Americans and full human beings.”