On June 19, 1982, the promising life of Vincent Chin, a young man in Detroit who was days away from his marriage, was ended in a cruel and senseless act of violence fueled by race hatred. It started with a heated exchange between Mr. Chin and two men who blamed the Chinese American for the loss of U.S. auto manufacturing jobs to Japanese competitors. The confrontation escalated to the bludgeoning of Mr. Chin with a baseball bat. Severely beaten, Vincent Chin of Detroit died from his injuries four days later on June 23.
Auto worker Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz, were arrested for his death; however, second-degree murder charges were reduced to manslaughter with only probation and fines, sparking national outrage. The injustice galvanized Asian Americans across the country leading to the conviction of Mr. Ebens and Mr. Nitz for violation of Mr. Chin’s civil rights. Although Mr. Nitz was found not guilty, Mr. Ebens was sentenced to 25 years of prison, but the conviction was overturned on appeal.
Today we observe the 35th Anniversary of Vincent Chin’s murder, often regarded as a watershed for Asian American civil rights advocacy for justice. Mr. Chin was the first Asian American victim prosecuted under the federal hate crime law (1968). In today’s climate of increased racial attacks on immigrants and citizens of color, it is important we are mindful of the bigotry that incited deadly violence against Mr. Chin and the need for peaceful solutions through understanding and dialogue. OCA-GLA also acknowledges the courage and endurance demonstrated by Vincent Chin’s mother, Lily, whose profound grief and dignity as a spokesperson for justice did much to draw national support and sympathy.