[Editor’s note: The following statement was issued by JACL Public Affairs VP Sarah Baker and JACL Education & Communications Coordinator Matthew Weisbly, and was lightly edited only to adhere to AP Style.]
Sunday, June 19, marks 40 years since Vincent Chin was brutally beaten in Detroit at his bachelor party by two autoworkers who mistook him for being Japanese.
Chin’s subsequent death and its aftermath are a constant reminder that even now, 40 years later, our AANHPI community is still susceptible to hate-fueled acts motivated by racism; however, at the same time, it is also a reminder of how we have found strength in our community.
Just as Chin was brutally beaten for being seen as “other,” we have been bombarded by stories recently of incidents in which members of our community have been attacked for the same reasons. The two autoworkers who violently attacked Chin yelled at him asserting that the Japanese were stealing jobs from American workers and that their lives were worse because of Japanese automakers. Now, the same racist ideology that was used to scapegoat Chin, the fearmongering against Japanese trade and industry, is being used again against Asian Americans, this time replacing China for Japan.
This same othering and targeting of China has been spouted throughout the pandemic, with countless community members being told that they should go back to their own country. Racially motivated hate crimes fueled by violent intent have long caused our community to suffer. Recent attacks against Asian American stores and elders remind us of the critical work that has yet to be done to prevent future attacks. All it takes is a spark, whether it be the growth of the Japanese auto industry or the belief that COVID-19 began in China, for people who at one point “tolerate” us to become violent and no longer value the lives of Asian Americans.
What followed Chin’s death though was a call for unity, which, until that point, had not yet been achieved in the AANHPI community. But such a senseless killing made the call for unity that much stronger and for the first time, the broader AANHPI community rallied behind a single cause, to demand justice for Vincent Chin and to ensure nothing like it ever happened again. The community building and solidarity we see today are a direct result of this. It’s why this week, our community comes together to honor and remember the tragedy and the legacy that Vincent Chin left behind. We also take this time to honor and remember all those who have been attacked and killed these past two years at the hands of violent acts that have occurred as a result of anti-Asian hate.
As part of remembering and honoring the legacy of Vincent Chin, local and national leaders have been hosting a series of events in the Detroit area, culminating in a panel on remembrance and rededication followed by an interfaith remembrance ceremony. You can view past programs from this week as well as register for upcoming programs this weekend at vincentchin.org.