Activists Continue To Fight For Racial Justice Decades After Vincent Chin’s Death

Vincent Chin, the Chinese American murdered in Detroit 40 years ago, still inspires people to continue the battle for racial justice.

“Many different Asian advocacy organizations were born out of that moment to say ‘never again,” said Helen Zia, the executor of the Chin estate and one of the co-founders of American Citizens for Justice.

On June 19, 1982, Chin was celebrating his bachelor party with friends when he was brutally murdered by Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz. They made the false accusation that Chin was of Japanese descent and that he had stolen their jobs. Ebens and Nitz were each given a $3,000 fine but were not sentenced to any time in prison.

This week, in remembrance of Chin’s passing, The Chinese American Museum in Los Angeles and the Flushing Hate Free Zone Campaign in Queens are conducting vigils in his honor in order to celebrate his legacy. While a documentary on Vincent Chin’s life and death, “Who Killed Vincent Chin?” is being shown in Detroit by the Vincent Chin 40th Remembrance and Rededication Committee.

Today, in the midst of a pandemic, similar tensions are rising again. According to research compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, there was an increase of about 340% in the number of crimes committed against the AAPI community between 2020 and 2021.

“Forty years later, we’re talking about the same topic,” Sylvan Lake attorney James Shimoura, a grandson of a Japanese immigrant who was an activist on the Chin case 40 years ago, said at a panel earlier Sunday at Detroit Film Theater. “Unfortunately, it’s gotten worse. The task ahead is so formidable.”

Executive Director of the AAPI Equity Alliance and Co-Founder of Stop Asian Hate Manjusha Kulkarni stated that the community is advocating for comprehensive anti-discrimination regulations as well as education that emphasizes the contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.