Eugene Cho

why everyone needs to know vincent chin

Vincent Chin is no American Idol but he is someone that every American needs to know but unfortunately, hardly anyone will remember or know – even during this week as we mark the “anniversary” of his brutal beating and subsequent death on June 23, 1982. It’s important to remember because how we recall the past can be so important as it informs our future. If you haven’t heard, the world is changing and that includes the country that I call home – the United States. And in a society where Diversity is the New Normal and an increase in tension with Immigration and Xenophobia issues, it’s that much more important for people to know about Vincent Chin.

Who is Vincent Chin?

Vincent Chin was a 27-year-old Chinese-American raised in Metro Detroit. A week before his wedding, June 19, 1982, he went to the Fancy Pants strip club in Highland Park with a few buddies for his bachelor’s party. There, they encountered two autoworkers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, who, like many at the time, blamed the Japanese for the U.S. auto industry’s troubles. Even though Chin was not Japanese and worked in the auto industry himself as a draftsman, Ebens was heard saying, “It’s because of you little m—f—s that we’re out of work,” as well as other anti-Asian racial epithets.

The men were thrown out of the bar, and the fight continued in the parking lot and into the night. Ebens and Nitz searched for Chin and his friends, and upon finding them, Nitz held Chin in a bear hug while Ebens struck Chin’s head four times with a baseball bat, cracking his skull. Vincent Chin died four days later. His wedding guests attended his funeral instead.

On March 18, 1983, Judge Charles Kaufman sentenced Ebens and Nitz to three years’ probation and a $3,000 fine, saying, “These aren’t the kind of men you send to jail. You fit the punishment to the criminal, not the crime.” This was followed by a federal civil rights trial and a civil suit. To this day, neither Ebens nor Nitz has spent a single day in jail. [source]

Because of the Gospel

I’ll be honest: I get timid writing these kind of posts.  I’m scared of being labeled an angry or bitter Asian. I’m reticent of the emails. I’m sick of being de-invited for speaking engagements. I’m tired of people accusing me of blaming White America for all the woes of the universe. I’m tired of defending that I am indeed an American.

But ultimately, my allegiance is not to a country, a government, or even a people group. Ultimately – and even in and despite my personal brokenness and contradictions – I strive to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  It is obvious that I – like everyone else – see things through a particular set of lens but lens that I hope are growing in the wholistic gospel of Christ.

It is because of the Gospel.

My faith in the Triune God informs all that I seek to do.  And as such, I long to pursue mercy, justice, and humility. And I sometimes share these things because they are rarely shared in the larger landscape of Western culture, faith, and [evangelical] Christianity.

Since I can’t write it any better, I’m pointing you to a post written by Steph at GRACE2X and her reflections on Vincent Chin. Her voice is even more unique because she is a lawyer who lives in Detroit (the place of Vincent Chin’s brutal death) and who actually received the Ina Kay Award – on behalf of Vincent’ family.

As for me, I’ve got no more words but simply ask what we can do to be Peacemakers, Justice Seekers, and Reconcilers. Because it doesn’t matter who you are – skin, gender, orientation, age, ethnicity - this is wrong and shouldn’t happen. And while you may disagree, it sometimes starts with talking about something perceived as inconsequential like slanted eyes.

Educate yourself:

[original link] It’s been 28 years since the death of Vincent Chin. Chin was brutally murdered right here in Motor City. His murderers -Ebens and Nitz, walked away scott-free (perhaps one night in jail?) Absolutely absolutely deplorable. Horrible injustice. Vincent’s mother was so distraught after the outcome, that she moved back to China after the trials were finished.

In the Fall of 2006, I accepted the Ina Kay Award – on behalf of Vincent’s family from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) at their annual In Concert Against Hate, in DC. I attended as a Board member of American Citizens for Justice, an organization founded in the wake of Chin’s death in order to pursue justice on his behalf. I attended because Vincent’s family did not want to attend the awards banquet or accept the award. This whole situation is still the cause of so much pain and anger for them and all of us. And it continues: ACJ is still trying to collect a multi-million dollar civil judgment from Ebens. The injustices are still continuing…

Fast forward to today– 28 years later.

IreneY and AngryAsianMan pointed me to a very recent hate crime which is freakishly similar to the case of Vincent Chin.

Here’s a reprint of the article on News America Media.

It is 2009! Things like this are NOT supposed to be happening anymore!

[NewsAmerica] Editor’s Note: Last week, two of the young white men who allegedly killed Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Penn. were acquitted by an all white jury. The case mirrors the first federal hate crime prosecution involving an Asian American. Carmina Ocampo is a Skadden fellow and staff attorney at the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) of Los Angeles. Immigration Matters regularly features the views of immigration advocates and experts.

Last July, Luis Ramirez, a Latino immigrant who worked in a factory, was brutally killed by a gang of drunken white teenagers motivated by their dislike of the growing Latino population in their small coalmining town of Shenandoah, Penn. Two of the young white men who killed Luis were recently acquitted by an all white jury of all serious charges including third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation.

The facts of this case sounded all too familiar to those of us lawyers who work on civil rights cases. They mirror the facts at the heart of the 1982 Vincent Chin hate crime case.

Luis Ramirez was taunted with racial slurs and beaten to death during an altercation with a group of drunken white teenagers. Similarly, Vincent Chin was a Chinese American man also in his 20s, who was brutally killed in Detroit by two white autoworkers who mistook him for being Japanese and shouted racial slurs at him, saying, “It’s because of m*** f*s like you that we’re out of work.”

Luis’s murder occurred during a time of increasing anti-immigrant sentiment directed primarily towards Latino immigrants, exacerbated by the economic crisis. Vincent Chin’s murder took place during a climate of intense anti-Asian sentiment directed at the Japanese who were blamed for taking jobs away from American workers. Helen Zia, a well-known Asian American civil rights activist described the early 1980s as a dangerous time to look Asian. The same may be said for Latinos today.

In both Luis’s and Vincent’s cases, the killers argued that their actions should be excused because they were drunk, the victims were the aggressors, and they were merely exercising self-defense during a drunken brawl.

During the state trial, Vincent’s killers were sentenced to only three years probation. His brutal death and his killers’ slap-on-the-wrist sentence shocked Asian Americans throughout the nation. Asian Americans launched a nationwide campaign, led by the American Citizens for Justice (ACJ), to demand just sentencing of the killers and federal prosecution of the murder as a hate crime.

As a result, Vincent’s case became the first federal hate crime prosecution involving an Asian American victim. Unfortunately, Vincent’s killers were acquitted of all charges in the federal case, including committing a hate crime, by an all white jury in Cincinnati. Vincent’s killers never served a day in jail. In light of the unjust verdict recently awarded to Luis’s killers, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) similarly are urging the Department of Justice to conduct a full investigation and prosecute the teenagers for a federal hate crime.

The Vincent Chin case is taught today in Asian American studies classes everywhere, inspiring a whole new generation of Asian American youth to take an interest in Asian American history and activism. Last weekend, the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival screened “Who Killed Vincent Chin,” the 1987 Academy Award-nominated documentary by Christine Choy and Renee Tajima-Pena about Vincent’s death, and the phenomenal community organizing that took place in its wake. One of the film’s most striking and powerful images is of Vincent’s mother, Lily Chin, one of the bravest heroes in the Vincent Chin campaign. In the film, Lily’s face contorted in pain and grief as she spoke out about Vincent’s death and demanded justice for her son. We can only imagine the suffering that Luis’s mother, wife, and two young children must be going through today.

May is the Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month. As part of APA Heritage Month, we owe it to Vincent and our community to remember how Asian Americans came together with other communities of color to demand justice for Vincent Chin. This time, we must do the same for Luis Ramirez.

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18 Responses

  1. [...] This post was Twitted by edshin – Real-url.org [...]

  2. DK says:

    Definitely infuriating. Thanks for prefacing this with the bit about not placing blame on White America. I too feel very conflicted and contradictory in the way I feel towards incidents like this. Let it be known that I love white people and some of my best friends are white. Why in the world does this stuff still happen? Everyone also needs to know what happened to Mike Cho. He was gunned down by 2 LAPD officers… he was shot about 18 times or so and the thing is, he was unarmed. Same sort of the thing where the cops are being acquitted of charges. Everyone can read about it here: http://www.justiceformikecho.com/

  3. david cho says:

    Please watch, and have your schools, churches, community groups, families, watch the documentary on Vincent Chin stated above, “Who Killed Vincent Chiin.” In fact, please purchase it, to support Asian American documentaries, and to have ready to show in your communities.

    I would recommmend not only watching it, but to also consider it’s context: Urban, depressed economic times, and chaos surrounding the US auto market, factors the documentary notes. This should cause everyone to reflect in similar eras, as we are now in, producing sad situations like like Luis Ramirez and Mike Cho.

  4. david cho says:

    Sorry for the re-post–caught typo’s
    ***

    Please watch, and have your schools, churches, community groups, families, watch the documentary on Vincent Chin stated above, “Who Killed Vincent Chin.” In fact, please purchase it, to support Asian American documentaries, and to have ready to show in your communities.

    I would recommmend not only watching it, but to also consider it’s context: Urban, depressed economic times, and chaos surrounding the US auto market, factors the documentary notes. This should cause everyone to reflect in similar eras, as we are now in, producing sad situations like like Luis Ramirez and Mike Cho.

  5. fergie says:

    Well, no, it’s not “White America” per se, but gee, if one believed (not saying one should) the Media Hype and the Squeaky Wheels, the only people in White America are NeoConservative Fundamentalist Christians… so, What gives? Now, I don’t fall into most of that description… I’m “white” with relatives that are not (actually some are spurned by the ‘white’ side, but that’s another story, it’s not an immigrant issue it’s a “who was here first” story); I can’t count myself as any sort of conservative; I do rely heavily on my Saviour for my day-to-day life, but…

    It’s one thing to be uninformed. It’s one thing to be just plain stupid. But I doubt either Miley or the Jonas Kid are either. Whether they like it or not, they are high profile celebs and that means that their behaviour is always a matter of public visibility. Just as Christians are warned not to cause offense to the easily offended, celebs must know that certain actions cause harm. This one isn’t a hard one to have a clue on.

  6. Liz VerHage says:

    thank you for sharing this story… I did not know, and so now can join the grief and anger and action that these faces and names motivate.

  7. I had never heard of Vincent Chin until this post. You’re right, I need to know Vincent Chin. And Luis Ramirez.

  8. Rosalind Sciammas says:

    It’s awful isn’t it? That such brutality and cruelty can still exist is SO hard to believe. How can we NOT be angry when ignorance turns into teasing, taunting and murder?

    After the anger subsides (even if it is only momentarily), I am reminded of the lessons hidden in such tragedy.

    #1) I am called to show grace in the face of such ignorance.

    Rage is ever-present and often misdirected at the innocent or “the others,” those so different/unfamiliar to us that they become invisible. Worse yet, they become the brunt of our jokes and a target for humiliation.

    #2) If I don’t show grace, they won’t hear me, understand or ever change.

    I am humbled by the path God has asked me to walk — one where I am forced to embrace a “new” family who has no idea how offensive and horrendous their “innocent” jokes really are. Can I fault them for growing up in “the country” with little exposure to any culture unlike theirs?

    I REALLY want to. In fact, I really want to run away, but I can’t. If I leave and live among those who are like minded, those who appreciate diversity, where will my “new” family end up? Will they continue to make racial slurs that might lead to another Vincent or Luis injustice? I must stay and share and pray, hoping that by God’s grace they will change (even if it’s just a little.)

    #3) I must be comfortable among “them.” I may be the first and only [ x ] they’ve ever met.

    I am so thankful for the work of Pastor Eugene, (as well as others like him), who seeks to demystify the Korean/Asian culture, who works to meet and befriend those unlike him, who courageously pastors a non-homogeneous congregation and that, by doing so, allows a love and adoration for multiculturalism that is hard to come by in our “not-exactly-so-diverse” Seattle.

    I wish everyone had the chance to grow up in a city like San Francisco — not because racism doesn’t exist there, but because it’s harder to ignore the similarities among us when we go to the same schools, play on the same sports teams and laugh at the same jokes.

    Thank you for posting this, Eugene; I know how uncomfortable it is to be seen and not invisible.

  9. Christine says:

    Thanks for sharing this Eugene. It’s horrible, but I’m glad to know about Vincent Chin and Luis Ramirez.

    Sometime I’d also like to hear(/read) about you being labeled an angry asian and being de-invited to speak. Those sound like important stories, too.

  10. Ann says:

    Thank you, Eugene, for sharing your heart and the pain that your family and Asian Americans feel when mocked, treated poorly, or harmed by those who spend more effort seeking to blame others than seeking God about how they may live new life with what they’re given. May the Lord give you more than enough support and encouragement in Christ to keep speaking truth to abusive power – whatever its form and guise!

  11. [...] Chin and Luis Ramirez.  I gave my “ok,” so now my VC blog post is linked from both Pastor Eugene’s blog and his blog at [...]

  12. Eugene, it makes me sad that you even feel you need to “apologize” for posting this. Keep sharing these kind of stories! America, and the church, needs to hear them. Jesus fought for racial justice too.

    Elena, a white writer and teacher married to a Korean adoptee, mother to two biracial boys

  13. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Eugene Cho, Christian News. Christian News said: why everyone needs to know vincent chin http://bit.ly/ctqjd9 via http://topicfire.com/Christian [...]

  14. jchenwa says:

    What if war breaks out btwn US and China or Korea, what will happen then? Repeat of WWII for Japanese?

  15. Steve says:

    Helen Zia’s “Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People” has a detailed chapter on Vincent Chin and the activism that arose from the Asian American community after his death in Detriot.

  16. [...] Chin was a 27-year-old Chinese-American raised in Metro Detroit. A week before his wedding, Read the rest of this entry »   Leave a [...]

  17. [...] Citizens for Justice, on behalf of the Family of the late Vincent Chin.  Pastor Eugene wrote a blog post about him that tracks back to me.. His post is better than [...]

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