Unless you’re Asian-American or involved in civil rights in some way, chances are you’ve never heard the name Vincent Chin. Seniors may remember him. He would have turned sixty-five in May 2020. Vincent Chin was murdered and died a violent death for racism. Unlike George Floyd, Vincent Chin did not die at the hands or knee of a police officer. Vincent Chin was beaten to death by two ordinary citizens.
Vincent Chin was born on May 18, 1955 in China. He was living in an orphanage when he was adopted in 1961 by a Chinese couple living in America, Bing Hing “David” Chin and Lily Chin. Chin grew up in Highland Park, Michigan, for most of the 1960s, but the family moved to Oak Park, Michigan in 1971. Vincent Chin graduated from high school in 1973 and studied at the Control Data Institute. He started working as a draftsman for a car supply company and worked as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant on weekends.
Detroit, Michigan was the scene of racial animosity towards Japan and the Japanese people in the early 1980s. There had been an oil shortage that drove up gasoline prices. Japanese cars, which were smaller and more fuel efficient than those produced in the United States, gained popularity. The US domestic market saw the decline of Detroit’s three major automakers, Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. American auto workers were considered expensive with the cost of wages, pensions, health insurance and union labor regulations. Many auto workers in Detroit were laid off and lost their income. The workers were angry and blamed Japan and the Japanese. They did not differentiate between different ethnicities of Asian people. Therefore, the hostility was directed against every Asian they came into contact with, even though most of them were Americans.
Vincent Chin, 27, was engaged to a wedding date set for June 28, 1982 and had a bachelorette party at a club with some of his friends on the night of June 19, 1982. Also at the club were two white men, Ronald Ebens, a foreman at Chrysler, and his stepson, Michael Nitz, who had lost his job at Chrysler. Assuming that Vincent Chin and his friends were of Japanese descent, a confrontation ensued with the two men blaming Vincent Chin and his friends for causing their job loss. The young Asian-American men were berated for being accused of being Japanese and causing their problems. Vincent Chin and his friends, along with Ebens and Nitz, were kicked out of the club. Chin apparently wasn’t intimidated, but they broke up.
Ebens and Nitz drove around for twenty minutes looking for Chin and his friends. They found them at a McDonald’s. Ebens savagely beat Chin with a baseball bat he had in his truck. An off-duty police officer witnessed the attack and later stated that Ebens faked a swing to hit a home run. He beat Chin to death when Chin died in the hospital four days later. It was definitely racism that caused Vincent Chin to die an untimely death.
No one disputed the fact that Ebens killed Vincent Chin. However, Ebens and Nitz received no jail time and were fined $3,000. The murder did not make national news at the time, but Asian Americans were outraged. The men admitted their guilt because there were witnesses to the assault, but went unpunished. Racism paid off.
Black people have faced extreme racism and continue to do so. Racism is a terrible problem, and it affects many people in this country. Something needs to be done about racism to improve conditions and create more equality in the world. People should not be subjected to racism.