Stop Asian Hate

Brutal killing of Asian American in Detroit inspired activism against Asian hate

By Gilda Balan, Correspondent

DETROIT — More than four decades after he was brutally murdered, Chinese American Vincent Chin has not found justice.

The 27-year-old was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat by two white autoworkers during his bachelor party in Detroit in 1982.

The two men who killed him never saw the inside of a prison cell after circuit judge Charles Kaufman were sentenced to three years’ probation after they pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Kaufman’s reason for the clear miscarriage of justice?

“These aren’t the kind of men you send to jail,” he said.

The pair had blamed Asian manufacturers for the downfall of the city’s auto industry. They told the court racism was not an issue in the killing.

This would be disproven after evidence that was not presented in court had eyewitnesses saying they heard the two men shouting racial insults during the attack.

On the anniversary of Chin’s killing, dozens of residents stood beneath Boston’s Chinatown gate to remember Chin. Donning t-shirts that read “STOP ASIAN HATE,” they lit candles arranged in the shape of a heart and a portrait of Chin with his name written in Chinese stating “May 18, 1955 – June 23, 1982.”

If there’s anything positive that came out of the senseless killing of a young Asian American in his prime, it is that countless Asian Americans united across ethnic and cultural lines to protest the injustice that had been meted on Chin.

More than four decades after the crime, activists continue to fight to make sure that Chin is never forgotten. Asian Americans recall the impact his killing had on their struggle for equality and racial justice.

Filmmaker Curtis Chin said, “For a whole generation of Asian American activists, the Vincent Chin case was the case that got them involved.”

It is worth noting that Hollywood had adapted Chin’s story into a movie “Who Killed Vincent Chan?” while law students till enact his trial.

Filmmaker Chin – no relation to the victim – recalled being outraged when he was 14, and wrote letters to newspaper editors. He would spend the next three decades raising Asian American voices, and recalling Vincent Chin’s tragedy amid the racism in 1980s Detroit.

For Helen Zia, the absence of any local organization advocating Asian American civil rights had her co-founding the American Citizens for Justice.

Her organization helped secure a federal trial against Chin’s killers. One was acquitted of civil rights violations while the other was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

It seemed that some form of justice had finally come, but it was not to be. That sentence was overturned on appeal.

Last year. Zia launched the Vincent Chin Institute, an advocacy organization to counter hatred against Asian Americans.

In some way, the relatives and friends of Chin can take heart in the fact that he is still remembered and has served as an inspiration for Asian Americans to reject racism and be willing to fight for their rights, no matter the cost.

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