HomeAsian AmericansWhat We Can Learn from the Death of Vincent Chin 35 Years...

What We Can Learn from the Death of Vincent Chin 35 Years Later

Vincent ChinBy Logan Wilbur
Asian American Life Intern

This month marks the 35th anniversary of the brutal murder of Detroit resident, and Chinese American, Vincent Chin.

There are many similarities in the ways communities rally together around social injustices today, as the Asian American community rallied around the death of Chin over thirty years ago.

On June 19, 1982, Vincent Chin was with friends celebrating his bachelor party at Fancy Pants, a strip club in Highland Park, Michigan.

“Four days later, after he was declared brain dead, 400 people attended a funeral instead of his wedding,” said journalist Ti-Hua Chang.

Ronald Ebens and his stepson Michael Nitz, both recently laid off by Chrysler, saw Chin at Fancy Pants and confused him for a Japanese American, blaming Chin for their recent woes due to the surge of popularity of Asian-manufactured vehicles.

After the three men left the night club, Ebens and Nitz found Chin at a local McDonald’s and proceeded to callously beat Chin in the head with a wooden Louisville Slugger baseball bat. Emergency personnel found Chin unconscious on the ground with his head split open. He was rushed to Henry Ford Hospital where he remained in a coma until he died four days later.

In 1984, Ebens and Nitz were tried in Federal Court on two counts of Violation of Civil Rights. Nitz was acquitted of both charges. In 1987, Ebens was cleared of all charges despite having admitted to the incident.

The ruling united Asian Americans across the country in a fight for their civil rights. And that fight continues.

The current uneasy political climate and attacks on AAPIs is a motivating factor in numerous rallies and protests today, but the familiar feeling in the fight for civil rights has many questioning when, if ever, lessons will be learned from the past and travesties of justice like the murder of Vincent Chin.

For more on this story, watch reporter Kyung Yoon’s segment:

Watch the entire June episode of Asian American Life, featuring stories on AAPI feminist in the age of Trump; how Asian American women are dealing with breast cancer and more:

Asian American Life is produced by CUNY-TV and airs monthly on Channel 75 and 25.3, and in syndication on NYC Media (Ch. 25) and PBS stations across the country. For more information follow us on Facebook @AsianAmericanLife


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