Why Remembering Vincent Chin Means #BlackLivesMatter
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Posted by: Nick Lee
33 years ago today, two white autoworkers murdered Vincent Chin while he was celebrating his bachelor party. Beating him with baseball bats, his murderers blamed Vincent for stealing their jobs, because they thought he was Japanese at a time when Detroit was suffering from overseas competition. Little did they know, Vincent was just like them: an American autoworker.
Despite this violent irony, the horrendous aspect of the Vincent Chin murder was compounded by the utter injustice done to his memory by the courts. After the two men who killed him admitted guilt, the court decided that a $3,780 fine and three years of probation was an appropriate punishment. His killers served no jail time and were sent back to society to walk free among the people. By contrast, Vincent was laid to rest on the day he was supposed to be married. The court’s inaction sent a clear message: that an Asian American life was worth just $3,780 and probation.
This was a watershed moment for the Asian American movement. Across the broad spectrum of ethnicities that encompassed the Asian American community, we rose up, galvanized in a common purpose, united and stronger than we had ever been before to demand “Justice for Vincent Chin”. Allies in organizations like the NAACP found common ground with us and we marched side by side to remember Vincent Chin and to try and ensure that the value of every human life was upheld as sacred.
The shocking and horrific events in Charleston, SC last week, where a white man entered a church and slaughtered nine Black people engaged in Bible study, remind us that little has changed. From Ferguson, Missouri to Baltimore, Maryland and now, Charleston, South Carolina, we are confronted by example after example of the devaluation of the lives of people of color. Like the killers of Vincent Chin, the Charleston murderer clung to the belief that the value of the life of a person of color was less than the life of a white person. No single community of color has suffered longer or has paid more dearly for that hateful belief than the Black community in America. As we pause to remember Vincent Chin, it is incumbent upon us to also reflect on all victims of hate, ignorance, fear and falsehoods.
With this said, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community must now speak loudly, clearly and emphatically on this issue: we support the value of every human life. We cannot simultaneously commemorate Vincent Chin and ignore the subject of Black lives. Three decades ago, the Black community bonded together with the Asian American community and we must now call upon ourselves to be strong allies in the #BlackLivesMatter campaign.
Last month, Vincent Chin’s family should have been able to celebrate his 60th birthday, but they will never be able to celebrate with him again. The families of the nine slain in Charleston, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Rev. Daniel Simmons and Myra Thompson, will never be able to celebrate with their loved ones again either. Instead we are left with many grieving families and the lost potential of what could have been. To right these wrongs, we must once again rise up, speak out and join together. The "Justice for Vincent Chin" and #BlackLivesMatter movements share a common purpose: to state unequivocally that the value of Black, Asian American and Pacific Islander lives matter as much as any human life. Only after people of all races, nationalities and ethnicities fully embrace this simple concept as truth can we ensure that all people of color, like Vincent and the Charleston Nine, can live to celebrate more birthdays.
Michael W. Kwan
OCA National President