Vincent Chin was born in Guang Dong in 1995. He was a 27 year old Chinese American who was raised in Metro Detroit. He studied Computer Operations in college because of its stability and good pay. He also worked at a restaurant during the weekends because he wanted to save money for the future and have a better life.
Unfortunately, Vincent Chin became a victim of a hate crime when he was ready to marry his fiancee Vikki Wong and move to a new home. On June 19, 1982, Vincent Chin and his friends had his bachelor party at the Fancy Pants strip club. There was tension between Vincent Chin and Ronald Ebens, who was an autoworker. Ronald was frustrated and declared that they are out of work because of all the Japanese Americans. The auto manufacturing jobs were being lost to Japan and he misunderstood the fact that Vincent was a Chinese and not Japanese. He and his stepson, Michael Nitz chased and searched for Chin when he left the club. They found him in a McDonald’s restaurant and beat him with a baseball bat. Vincent tried to escape but he was blocked by Ronald. Chin slipped into a coma later on and he was brain dead five days before his wedding. “This is not fair” Chin said to his friend before he lost consciousness.
The case of Vincent Chin brings up the tension of the Chinese community and the injustice in the society because of the violation of people’s civil rights. In court, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz were convicted for manslaughter and they served no jail time. They were only given three years of probation and were fined $3,000 because they had no criminal records and were employees at that time; they were "not a threat to the society." The judge also defended that his job was “to fit the punishment to the criminal, not just the crime.” Vincent’s family, especially, his mother was angry at the racism toward Asians and the punishments of the killer “can’t pay back” the lost of her son.
Liza Cheuk May Chan, a lawyer for Vincent Chin, and Helen Zia, a journalist, led the fight for a federal charge. They persuaded the justice department that Ronald’s and Michael’s actions were a hate crime and they accused them of violating Chin’s civil rights. In addition, many Chinese protested and brought up the tension of Chinese civil rights through the spot light of the media.
The death of Vincent Chin woke up the Asian community because it represents the impact of the Asian Americans in the United States. Chinese were not treated equally compared to other races. We can never restore a life; people started to realize the importance of standing up and fighting against injustice and for civil rights. Anyone can be a target because similar things may happen to us. We should all remember Vincent Chin, not only because it expresses hurt but because it brought us together, and we don’t want a similar tragedy to happen again. As what Frank Wu has said in an interview: Vincent Chin’s story is worth remembering because it touched a community and instructs us in a diverse democracy. It inspires others to stand out and speak out.
To view the Frank Wu's interview, click here.