June 19's Fact of the Week: Vincent Chin

Thirty years to this date, on June 19, 1982, Vincent Chin abruptly lost his life from a racially motivated attack in Detroit, Michigan. Only at 27-years-old, he was targeted at his bachelor’s party for a hate-crime based on his ethnicity. Although Chin was Chinese-American, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz stereotyped him as Japanese and blamed him for the decline of the American automobile industry to Japanese automakers. What had first started as a verbal exchange of racial slurs, quickly escalated into a brutal physical altercation that ended when Ebens and Nitz repeatedly bashed Chin over his head with a baseball bat. Before Chin slipped into a coma, his last words were “It’s not fair.” Four days later, he died from his injuries. Ebens and Nitz only received three years of probation and a $3,000 fine for the hate-crime and second-degree murder, a controversial light sentence that put into question the legal system’s integrity towards Asian-Americans. Most importantly, Chin’s death sparked an outrage within the Asian-American community that called for justice. The 1980s political awakening emerged closely connected with his death in the struggle for justice and laws against hate-crime. Subsequent campaigns and activism promoted self-awareness and rights for minorities. Today, remembering Chin remains an important reminder about the violence of racism.